.Corp Comm Connects

Report calls for Ontario to keep rental increases reasonable

June 4, 2018
Natalie Paddon

The number of landlords trying to evict tenants through applications to the local Landlord and Tenant Board office jumped by 95 per cent from 2010 to 2016.

Over the same six-year period, the Ontario-wide increase of landlords making an L2 application -- the next step if tenants contest the form used to evict them -- was 58 per cent.

A new rental housing report called Out of Control -- released Friday by the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic -- argues Ontario should put in place additional protections to keep rent increases reasonable and create a healthy market.

The report, which comes less than a week before the provincial election, compares the rental landscapes in Hamilton and Quebec City -- two cities of comparable size and growth but with different tenant protection policies, said Sara Mayo, the report’s author.

“We called this report Out of Control because that’s how the rental market feels for tenants,” said the SPRC social planner.

In 2017, the annual average rent increase in Hamilton was close to 5 per cent, compared to less than 1.5 per cent in Quebec City.

“This is completely unsustainable and out of control,” Mayo said. “This is a crisis that is being ignored.”

Samuel Mason, a staff lawyer at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, said it’s important to note the connection between the increase in applications by landlords to evict tenants and the increase in tenant applications about maintenance.

The report shows a 72 per cent increase in tenant maintenance applications at the board’s Southern office, which includes Hamilton, Niagara, Guelph, Brantford, Halton and Simcoe, from 2010-2016. The province-wide increase was 37 per cent over that time.

“When the vacancy rate is so low, landlords want to evict tenants because they know they can get tenants with higher incomes or with more assets to come and move in,” Mason said. “Tenants feel stuck because they’re not able to leave if the landlord’s not doing the required maintenance because they won’t find equal accommodation elsewhere.”

While there have been some improvements to the Residential Tenancies Act, including expanding rent control to units built after 1991, Mayo said additional steps need to be taken.

She argued there’s often a link made between better protection for tenants and a decreased supply of new rental units, but that’s not what data from Quebec shows.

Since 2011, more than 12,000 private rental market units were added in Quebec City compared to fewer than 700 in Hamilton over the same period.

Starting last month, tenants at Stoney Creek Towers near Eastgate Square have been participating in a rent strike over proposed increases and a lack of repairs.

Emily Power, a member of the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network, said the suggestions in the report could make a “wonderful difference” for local tenants but Stoney Creek residents are taking matters into their own hands.

“Here’s a local example of tenants that are not waiting for laws to change and for politicians to have a change of heart,” she said. “They’re fighting themselves.”