PC rent control changes probably won't mean more apartments in Hamilton, critics say

A local landlord and a tenant action group both say they don't have much hope that the province's changes to rent control will spur more new apartments in Hamilton.

Landlord says better rules needed to evict problem tenants, while tenant group says this makes life harder

Landlords and tenants are coming at the debate from different sides, but both doubt new rent control changes will help Hamilton's rental supply much. (Fred Prouser/Reuters)

A local landlord and a tenant action group both say they don't have much hope that the province's changes to rent control will spur more new apartments in Hamilton.

Adam Kitchener, owner of Unlimited Residential, and Keith Alarie, co-chair of Hamilton ACORN, both say scrapping rent control for new units won't solve Hamilton's housing woes.

The PC government announced the changes Thursday through its fall economic statement. The changes would end rent control for all newly built or newly converted units. Current units, meanwhile, would remain under rules that keep increases no higher than the rate of inflation.

The province says this new move will spur more rental unit construction. 

But on this, Kitchener and Alarie can agree — they say the move won't do much.

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli applauds alongside Premier Doug Ford after speaking to members of his caucus in Toronto on Sept. 24, 2018. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

It's a good start, Kitchener said. He's not a fan of rent control.

But to really encourage new apartments, he said, the province needs to overhaul rules so landlords can more easily evict tenants who don't pay. Until then, developers will see condos as a safer bet.

"The real reason we don't build more apartments is because of constraints around the Landlord and Tenant Board and the Residential Tenancies Act when it comes to collecting rent and damages," Kitchener said.

Until that changes, "we're not going to see a huge influx of builds."

Average rents in the Hamilton census area (including Burlington and Grimsby) rose by 5.5 per cent in 2017 from 2016. (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.)

Alarie sees it differently. He wants more rent control, not less. Eliminating rent control on new units, he said, will just mean more units on the market that put low-income people at risk of hikes.

"He's more on the landlord side," Alarie said of Ford. Without rent control, "landlords can raise the price however they want."

Reactions are mixed on whether rent control makes much of a difference either way.

The Wynne Liberals expanded rent control in 2017, largely because the lack of it didn't seem to be spurring development, said Tom Cooper, director for the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction. 

Hamilton ACORN has held several rallies this year, saying landlords are evicting tenants by jacking up post-renovation rents. (Adam Carter/CBC)

A recent report from analysis firm Urbanation seems to support there not being a connection. It shows the current rental construction rate in the GTA is the highest in three decades. This came even after the changes by the Wynne Liberals.

Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC, supported the province's changes. The "only way" to encourage developers to purpose-built rental apartments is to let them charge increased rent, he said.

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said, "Everybody who's an existing tenant today is protected … but the challenge for the future is, there is no supply." 

Suze Morrison, NDP housing critic, spoke out against the change.

"By cancelling rent control for an untold number of rental homes in the middle of a housing crisis, Doug Ford is intentionally driving up the cost of living for people," Morrison said in a statement Sunday.

"In rental homes without rent control, any month could be the month that a family gets a rent hike notice that makes their home no longer affordable to them."

In Hamilton, apartments have become more expensive and tougher to find. 

In late 2017, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) said rents rose 5.5 per cent from 2016. Vacancy rates were 2.4 per cent compared to 3.8 per cent the year before.

The average rent for an apartment of any size was $1,020, up from $967 in 2016.


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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