Private member's bill to expand rent control gets boost from Toronto city council
Council approves motion to back rent control bill, though Mayor John Tory votes against it
A private member's bill put forward at Queen`s Park earlier this month to get rid of the so-called 1991 rent control "loophole" got a major endorsement from Toronto city hall Wednesday as councillors approved a motion to support the proposed legislation.
Council voted 32-11 to back the bill proposed by NDP MPP Peter Tabuns, which would extend rent control to buildings in the province built after 1991.
But among those who voted against it was Mayor John Tory.
"I wish he would've supported it," said Coun. Mary Fragedakis, who moved the motion, though she admits she didn't directly canvas Tory.
"I'm sad to see it wasn't unanimous," said Fragedakis, who represents Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth.
A similar motion calling on the province to expand rent control introduced at city hall four years ago passed 30-1, though nothing changed.
But Ontario's current minister of housing, Chris Ballard, recently told CBC Toronto his staff will soon unveil new "rental controls" to address the skyrocketing cost to rent a home in and around Toronto.
Ballard spoke about the upcoming changes after Tabuns introduced his private member's bill and after CBC Toronto launched its series, No Fixed Address, featuring the struggles of young professionals trying to buy or rent homes in the city.
The so-called 1991 rule was brought in under former premier Mike Harris, essentially removing almost all rent control on properties built Nov. 1, 1991.
The hope was to spur more rental developments, which were severely lacking in Toronto at the time.
But tenancy advocates argue the move didn't encourage enough purpose-built rentals to keep up with the demand. Ballard told CBC Toronto he agrees and he's "absolutely" open to revisiting the law.
"I know that supply is still an issue in Toronto — it's still a big issue — so I don't want to do anything that's going to put too much of a chill on the building marketplace," Ballard said. "Something has to be done and the focus right now is taking some of the pressure off of our tenants."
Mayor to hold roundtable on housing affordability
When asked why Tory didn't support today's motion, the mayor's office told CBC Toronto in a statement: "The Mayor wants to keep Toronto affordable and livable for residents. He believes the issue of rent control is complex and requires a more in-depth debate."
The mayor "looks forward" to seeing the proposals from the province, the statement says.
Wednesday's council vote came as the mayor plans to hold his own roundtable on housing affordability Thursday morning.
The guest list includes the Toronto Real Estate Board, the Ontario Home Builders Association, along with a couple of big banks, the United Way, the University of Toronto and the Ryerson City Building Institute, among others.
Some warn expanding rent control could hurt supply
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, who represents Ward 7, York-West, said any expansion of rent control could make things worse — just as the city has started to see an increase in rental units being built.
"Now that we're getting some rental units, we're basically saying we don't want them anymore," he said.
"It's an issue."
Dozens of landlords have also voiced their concerns on CBC Toronto's special Facebook group, Toronto Housing Woes.
While construction of new rental apartments remains low, there is no shortage of condo units being built. About 50 per cent of all new condominiums are bought by investors, who then lease them out to tenants.
Kayla Andrade, a landlord who runs a Facebook group called Ontario Landlords Watch Members, says she's very concerned about any potential changes to the 1991 rule.
"Condo fees are increasing every year," she wrote in a message to CBC Toronto. "We need less government involvement to correct this housing crisis. They should help owners keep cost low, so the landlords can keep rents low."