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Rental housing bylaw will be back: councillor

City council has voted not to implement a controversial new bylaw requiring rental units to be licensed. But this likely isn’t the last we’ve heard of the issue.

Landlords and housing advocates protested proposal for buildings with 6 units or less

The debate over a rental housing bylaw isn't over, councillor says. (Terry Asma/CBC)

City council has voted not to implement a controversial new bylaw requiring rental units to be licensed. But this likely isn’t the last we’ve heard of the issue.

The proposed bylaw was an effort to crack down on landlords with derelict units, particularly around Mohawk College and McMaster University. It would have seen landlords of buildings with six or fewer units – about one-third of Hamilton apartments - pay $100 per year per unit for a license saying it abided by city regulations.

Councillors opted not to do that Wednesday, instead ratifying last week’s decision by the planning committee to beef up an existing program. But the notion of a bylaw is only deferred, not dead, said Coun. Brian McHattie of Ward 1.

“In the back of the report, in the body of the minutes, it tabled the rental licensing bylaw,” McHattie said after the meeting.

As for whether it will come back, “I think it will,” he said. “I think the issues that we had before these discussions occurred are still there. We still have neighbourhoods that are in really bad shape because of the concentration of rental housing.”

Local realtors and landlords had 'undue influence,' McHattie says

Council voted Wednesday to take a temporary proactive enforcement program and make it permanent. This includes hiring four full-time staff.

The bylaw drew criticism from local realtors and landlords, as well as some affordable housing advocates who feared it would displace as many as 10,000 tenants.

Realtors and landlords were too heavy an influence on the issue, said McHattie, a vocal advocate of the bylaw.

“I’m disappointed with how realtors and the apartment owners association carried the day on the issue,” he told councillors. “It really seemed they had undue influence in this case, and that’s generally disturbing when it occurs.”

But Coun. Brad Clark of Stoney Creek said he listened more heavily to affordable housing advocates.

“This was from people who would be the first ones to stand up and scream bloody murder because there were crappy unsafe units and they wanted better housing,” Clark said.

“I didn’t pay attention to one particular side – the investors or the tenants. I went to the people who didn’t have a horse in the race.”

The city began the existing program as a pilot project in 2010. Now that it’s permanent, the city will spend about $275,000 per year for the four workers. The overall program costs $455,000, but earns back $180,000 through fines. 

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