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FORUM: University-Rosedale has a housing affordability crisis (Jan. 2020)

January 31st, 2020 · No Comments

Ford forgets “affordable” in his housing plans

By Jessica Bell

Leonard is 72, lives at 103 Avenue Rd., and is the latest victim of Toronto’s affordable housing crisis. Here’s Leonard’s problem: he lives on $1,600 a month from his pension, and $1,500 of that is spent on rent. He has $100 a month to spend on everything else. For food, Leonard has protein shakes and one small meal a day. 

Leonard’s corporate landlord wants to increase his rent by nine per cent, well above the legal limit. Leonard is terrified that if the increase is approved by the Landlord Tenant Board he will be homeless.  

Eighty-six-year-old Roland is facing a similar crisis. Roland lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment on Walmer Road, his home for nearly 50 years. Roland just received an eviction notice, which says that he has to move out so the building can be renovated. The property manager says all tenants have to be out, even though none of the permits for the renovations have been filed.  Roland doesn’t know where he’s going to go. 

Leonard and Roland’s experience is common. Big business and global capital have set their sights on Toronto’s booming rental housing market, and our neighbours are the target. Corporate landlords are taking advantage of legal loopholes by pushing through above-the-guideline rent increases, and renovating apartments in order to evict long-term tenants and replace them with new renters who pay exorbitant market rents. 

Toronto is the most expensive place for renters in Canada, and it’s getting worse. A report by Rentals.ca estimates rent will increase by 7% in 2020, reaching $2,800 a month. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives calculates a person needs to earn $33 an hour to afford to live in Toronto. The majority of Torontonians earn far less than that. To survive, many residents are working longer hours, taking on debt, living in overcrowded apartments, moving out of the city, or falling into homelessness.  

The Ford government says the housing crisis can be solved by building more homes, but the real solution is to create more affordable homes. Here are four policies we can implement right now to achieve this goal:

1. The Ontario Government and its agency, the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal, should stop stymieing the City of Toronto’s plan to restrict short-term rentals to a person’s primary residence. In today’s unregulated short-term rental market many investors are buying homes, kicking out tenants, and listing the property on AirBnB. In its review of AirBnB listings, advocacy group, Fairbnb, calculated that Toronto’s new law could return 5,000 homes to the long-term rental market.

2. The Ontario government should introduce sensible inclusionary zoning rules that require new large developments to make an agreed-upon percentage of units affordable, and an agreed-upon percentage of units to be two and three bedroom. Toronto has more cranes in the sky than any other city in North America, but the homes being built are too small and too expensive to meet our city’s needs.

3. Ontario should look to the BC government’s work to tame global capital with a vacant homes tax. Statistics Canada estimates Toronto has 65,000 vacant homes — and 9,000 homeless. A tax would encourage absentee owners to rent out these homes and also raise revenue for new housing.

4. Ontario should provide better protection for renters against illegal evictions. Duty council should be available at the Landlord Tenant Board to level the playing field. Currently, only 2% of tenants attending an LTB hearing have legal representation, yet 79.5% of landlords do. The Ontario government should also enforce its own rules by finding and fining landlords who illegally evict a tenant by falsely claiming they are renovating or moving a family member in, only to relist the property for a higher price. 

Toronto should be a fair, vibrant, welcoming, and thriving city for all. Our elders, including Roland and Leonard, as well as our entertainers, nannies, caregivers, cleaners, teaching assistants, bus drivers, and paramedics deserve to live a good life here. This is our city too and we are going to fight to stay. 

Contact our office at jbell-co@ndp.on.ca to get updates on our work to make housing affordable. 

Jessica Bell is the MPP for University-Rosedale.

READ MORE BY JESSICA BELL

Tags: Annex · Opinion