Wynne's housing, rental affordability measures met with mixed response

The Ontario Liberals new plan to help curb soaring home prices and curtail questionable rental practices, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area, was met with mixed reaction Thursday.

Soaring home prices and sudden rent increases prompted government action

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne introduced a surprisingly aggressive package of measures Thursday aimed at cooling home prices and expanding rent controls. (Aaron Lynett/Canadian Press)

The Ontario Liberals' new plan to help curb soaring home prices and curtail questionable rental practices, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area, was met with mixed reaction Thursday. 

The 16-point strategy includes measures such as a proposed 15 per cent foreign buyers tax, an opportunity for municipalities to tax vacant homes, and perhaps most importantly, sweeping rent control measures that will be felt particularly heavily in the GTA, where some steep hikes in monthly rents have forced some tenants from their homes. 

Wynne's Liberals introduced the changes after significant pressure from voters across Ontario, along with a number of veritable horror stories involving tenants and landlords that have made headlines in recent weeks. CBC Toronto reported earlier that renters in a hip Liberty Village condo were forced out after a 100 per cent increase in rent overnight. 

This week, CBC's Here and Now interviewed 25-year-old Nicole Meredith, who was forced to move when her rent jumped $425 per month after a new company purchased her building. She says that while she's rented for years in the city, she's been unable to find a new apartment with a rent she can afford. 

"It's amazing that so many people came forward and forced the government to do something about this," she told CBC News Thursday. 

"I think, and most people would think, that they should be able to live in a place they can afford and not have to worry about suddenly facing crazy rent."

There are, however, industry groups that decried the measures.

Rent controls "will have a detrimental effect on all those planned developments that our members want to build," said Jim Murphy, CEO of the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario, a group that represents more than 2,000 builders and contractors. 

Murphy says companies that he lobbies for currently have about 28,000 rental units "in the pipeline" that are ready to be built, but now many will likely be abandoned due to the threat of rent controls. 

According to Murphy, the 16 measures do little to help renters or ease the supply-side pressure of the housing market. Rather, he says, they serve another purpose for a premier facing low approval numbers. 

"They're politically popular for the premier," he told reporters.

But Geordie Dent, a representative of the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations, says it's a myth that rent control limits the construction of new rental-specific homes.

"Landlords might be a little upset, but it's the best rental market for them in 30 years, so they're doing fine," he said with a smirk. 

"It's going to help tens of thousands of people across Toronto and hundreds of thousands across Ontario."


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