Why this activist says proposed new rental rules are far from 'a done deal'

While some may believe the province's proposed sweeping changes to rental rules are a sure thing — the Liberals have a majority, after all — others aren't so certain after two days of hearings on the legislation at Queen's Park this week.

Advocates fear Liberal government 'may cave' to landlord lobby groups

Dania Majid, a lawyer with ACTO, fears the province could give into 'rhetoric' from landlord lobby groups, who are against expanding rent control. (Provided)

While some may believe the province's proposed sweeping changes to rental rules are a sure thing — the Liberals hold a majority government, after all — others aren't so certain after two days of hearings on the legislation at Queen's Park this week.

"It's definitely not a done deal," said Dania Majid, a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario.

More than 20 special interest groups took part the hearings. A committee made up of all parties goes through the legislation line by line, which is standard practice before any bill is made law.

Each presenter got five minutes to make their case, either for or against the proposed legislation, known as Bill 124 or the Rental Fairness Act.

If passed, it would close the so-called 1991 loophole, which would impose rent controls on all units built after that year, and usher in a number of other new measures to protect renters.

But Majid worries the province "may cave" to landlord lobby groups, who argue expanding rent control to all buildings — not just those built before 1991 — will kill any new purpose-built rental projects.

Sweeping changes to Ontario's rental rules are making their way through Queen's Park, but will they pass? (John Rieti/CBC)

"Evidence should be the basis of all types of policies and laws, not rhetoric," said Majid, calling the loophole a "failed experiment."

"We've had it for 26 years. It did not produce the rental housing it promised to produce when it was introduced."

Making the case for the status quo

But the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario, who also presented at the hearings this week, said the potential new policies — including getting rid of the 1991 rule — is forcing its members to review future purpose-built rental projects.

"Some say [the 1991 loophole] did not work. They are wrong. Last year in the Toronto area we had a 50 per cent increase in new purpose-built rental construction," said Jim Murphy, the federation's CEO, during his presentation.

He estimates 20,000 rental units are in jeopardy, equal to a $6.5 billion investment.

Ontario Housing Minister Chris Ballard told CBC Metro Morning host Matt Galloway Wednesday that he's heard the concerns about the potentially negative impact on supply.

"We're certainly worried about that because there's not enough purpose-built rental accommodation in Toronto and in many places across Ontario," said Ballard.

Housing Minister Chris Ballard says 'tenants are being kicked to the curb, and quite frankly, they’re being abused and we have to end that.' (CBC Toronto)

Cracking down on landlords' 'own use'

Expanding rent control isn't the only part of the proposed legislation getting mixed reviews.

The province wants to crack down on landlords who abuse the 'own-use' provision, which allows them to evict tenants so they or someone in their family can move into the unit.

Under the new rules, landlords would have to provide proof they plan to live in the unit for at least a year and pay the outgoing tenant one month's rent.

Landlord Bob Ciborowski, who rents out his home at Yonge and Eglinton, sees it as just another tax and a burden on landlords.

"To make it a month's rent is a little unreasonable," Ciborowski said.

Landlord Bob Ciborowski isn't sure that the province's new measures will really prevent people who own property from lying about needing it back for their own use and then upping the rent once the tenant leaves. (CBC)

"If they're really after trying to get the people who are going to charge huge increases, like doubling the rent, this isn't going to stop anyone."

Heather, 60, who has lived in her rental home for the past nine years with her daughter and three grandchildren, agrees.

"It's a band-aid," she wrote in an email to CBC Toronto. "They will find ways around it."   

CBC Toronto agreed to withhold her last name, as she's investigating whether her landlord plans to move into her unit, as was claimed on her eviction notice.

"I think that I have been here so long that market value has risen and they are not making the money that they could be making," she said.

"[It] makes me physically ill to think of the blatant disregard for my daughter, and my grandkids who live here too, being the only home they have known."

Ballard insists the proposed changes will "make it more difficult for landlords to quickly flip" their units.

We're not talking about buying and selling widgets, we're talking about people. We're talking about families. We're talking about their lives.- Chris Ballard, Ontario's Minister of Housing

"We need to make sure renters are protected. We're not talking about buying and selling widgets, we're talking about people. We're talking about families. We're talking about their lives," said Ballard.

"This is their place to live."

The bill will now go for a third reading at Queen's Park, when MPPs will debate the legislation before a final vote is taken.

There is, so far, no scheduled date. If it passes, it will be retroactive to April 20, 2017 — the day it was announced.

Want to share your experience as a tenant, landlord or developer in Toronto's competitive rental market? Send us an e-mail to toronto.housing@cbc.ca 

About the Author

Shannon Martin

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Shannon is an award-winning reporter with CBC Toronto. She was part of the core team that launched "No Fixed Address", a hugely popular series on millenials renting and buying in Toronto. In 2016, Shannon hosted a special live broadcast on-air and on Facebook simultaneously from Toronto Pride, which won top honours in the Digital category at the RTDNA awards. Contact Shannon: shannon.martin@cbc.ca or find her on Instagram at @ShannonMartinTV.

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