Toronto’s rental crisis threatens social, economic fabric: Opinion (Toronto Star)

On April 4, 2017 in the Toronto Star published an Op-Ed I wrote together with Councillor Josh Matlow highlighting the rental affordability crisis many Torontonians face. Rental affordability for many residents has become a growing problem with record-low unit vacancy rates of 1.3%, a lack of new purpose built rental stock and rapidly rising cost of rent. In units constructed after 1991, including purpose built rental and condominium units, a lack of rent increase controls has in some cases contributed to reports of price gouging with annual increases of as much as 50%.

The rising costs of housing threatens Toronto's economic fabric with new families and workers unable afford to move into our city and contribute to Toronto's long term prosperity. Addressing the current rental affordability crisis requires new solutions and collaboration amongst all levels of government and our community, non-profit and private sector partners. The City of Toronto is taking the first steps by bringing together experts and stakeholders to understand how we can find solutions. By building on these efforts and working together, we can ensure that all Torontonians are able to live in safe, affordable and clear homes.

You can view the article below or at: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/federalbudget/2017/03/22/advocates-praise-budgets-112b-boost-for-affording-housing.html

Toronto’s rental crisis threatens social, economic fabric: Opinion (Toronto Star)

The time has now come for non-profit, community, and private-sector organizations to work with all levels of government and governmental agencies to tackle the rental housing crisis and prevent the hollowing out of our city. 

By JOSH MATLOW
ANA BAILÃO

Tues., April 4, 2017

No Torontonian should be forced to choose between paying the rent and buying groceries, which is the unfortunate choice too many residents of our city are forced to make every month. As the chairs of the Tenant Issues and Affordable Housing Committees we have heard from too many individuals who are being squeezed out of our city.

These are not isolated stories and the challenges of finding a decent and affordable place to live are affecting people across the rental spectrum in all areas of the city.

Rents are rapidly rising and on the turnover from one tenant to the next, units are frequently being rented to the highest bidder. Due to a historically low vacancy rate of 1.3 per cent, and a lack of new purpose-built rental supply, more and more residents are finding themselves precariously housed by renting condominiums.

Despite the ongoing construction of new condominiums, there remains a major shortage of homes that people can afford. The rental situation has now become critical and it is increasingly affecting the social and economic success of Toronto. Many residents are being priced out of the housing market, threatening the city’s ability to attract investment, good jobs, and maintain social cohesion.

We can help address the supply challenge at the municipal level by creating opportunities to increase the amount of purpose-built rental supply, support the collection of better data, leverage innovative funding and financing models, ensure as many residential units as possible are on the market and encourage the creation of secondary suites, such as laneway suites.

The other issue that needs to be addressed is the Residential Tenancies Act. As a result of market pressures and a lack of protection for renters living in a unit built after 1991, some tenants in condominiums have reported price gouging through annual rent increases between 10 per cent and 50 per cent. This challenge has contributed to a rise in condo apartment rents averaging close to $2,000 per month.

While the “1991 exemption” enacted by the Mike Harris government in 1997 was meant to spur an increase in rental housing construction by allowing unrestricted yearly rent increases, it has largely failed to increase the amount of purpose-built rental supply.

On the other hand, residents in pre-1991 buildings that supposedly were protected are faced with rent increases above the guideline to pay what should be the cost of doing business. These are just some of the challenges that need to be addressed and that have created a two-tiered tenant and landlord system that must be fixed.

We are pleased that the minister of housing has responded to calls to review the Residential Tenancies Act. The new reality of the rental market was not anticipated 20 years ago and needs to be reflected through updated provincial legislation with fair, balanced, and predictable regulations for everyone.

The time has now come for non-profit, community, and private-sector organizations to work with all levels of government and governmental agencies to tackle the rental housing crisis and prevent the hollowing out of our city.

As a first step, we are hosting an unprecedented joint meeting of our two committees today at City Hall to take a holistic look at rental affordability in Toronto. This will allow us to take stock of what is happening in Toronto’s rental housing market and hear first-hand from the public and stakeholders most affected.

With everyone working together, we can move forward with concrete recommendations to help ensure all Torontonians have access to a safe, clean, and affordable home.

Josh Matlow is the city councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul’s and the chair of the Tenant Issues Committee. Ana Bailão is the city councillor for Ward 18, Davenport and the chair of the Affordable Housing Committee.

 

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