Sudbury tenants face higher rents in the new year
Higher rent puts low-income workers at risk of eviction, say advocates
Gerad Egers' monthly rent for his Sudbury apartment will go up by $10.20 per month in the new year.
Egers said that may not sound like much, but he makes minimum wage, which is currently $14.35 per hour, and his rent increase is in addition to higher costs for groceries and other necessities in the last year.
"When you live on a budget, cheque-to-cheque, pay-to-pay, it can be things like, you know, three bus rides, four loaves of bread," he said.
"It's just those little things that it's going to affect. It's a minor inconvenience, but it's an inconvenience nonetheless."
Ontario will allow landlords to increase their rent to existing tenants by 1.2 per cent on Jan. 1, 2022. Landlords must provide 90 days notice before they increase a tenant's rent.
The increase follows a rent freeze put in place in 2020 due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on many low-income workers.
Egers said the rent freeze, along with financial assistance from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) program helped him get by and meet his basic needs.
While the minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour in the new year, he said that won't put him any further ahead with higher rent and inflation.
"The timing is what's hard about it," he said. "There doesn't seem to be any mercy right now on the minimum wage or the low income earner in Ontario."
Low-income tenants at risk of eviction
Allison Woods, the interim executive director of the Sudbury Community Legal Clinic, said even a small increase to housing costs can put low-income individuals at risk of eviction.
The clinic provides free legal advice and support to low-income residents on matters ranging from housing law to disability claims.
Woods said while she empathizes with smaller landlords, whose costs have also increased, she said tenants are in a more vulnerable position.
"I definitely think we are facing a housing crisis," she said. "Housing costs are far outpacing income and different types of income supports as well."
Woods said the shelter allowance for a person on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) is $497 per month, while the average rent in Sudbury in 2020 was $1,053 per month, and just under $1,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.
"Whether it's working at a minimum wage job, or people on ODSP, rental costs are just far exceeding what people can afford," she said.
Woods said the rent freeze in 2020 helped a lot of her clients. Beyond a freeze on rents, she said Sudbury needs more affordable housing, and Ontario's Landlord and Tenant Board could be more flexible with tenants.
That flexibility would include more options for rent payment plans and a moratorium on evictions, she said.
Pandemic difficult for small landlords
Sherry Jordan, a property manager and vice-president of the Greater Sudbury Landlord Association, said the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for a lot of her members.
"Many landlords have stepped forward and said, 'You know, I'm just going to get out of the business,'" Jordan said.
Along with the pandemic rent freeze, the province also put in place a ban on evictions, which ended in June 2021.
"They (landlords) were having to pay out of pocket for the tenants that refused to pay their rent because they took advantage of it," Jordan said.
"Or maybe some just couldn't afford to pay their rent. There's always two sides to every story, but regardless, in the end, it was the landlord that took the hit. So yes, buildings were sold and people got out of the industry."
Jordan said the allowable rent increase of 1.2 per cent is modest, and would result in a $10 to $20 monthly increase for most tenants.
"You know, the landlords and the tenants. I mean, we've all suffered through this pandemic," she said.
"But you know, there is light on the other side and it will take some time and we just all need to get through it."