Recently, the HHC responded to the discussion paper, Tenant Protection Legislation, released by the Ontario government in June, 1996. The government proposes a complete overhaul to the current system regulating housing. It would consolidate six pieces of legislation that cover tenant and landlord relationships. A summary of the important trends affecting housing in Halton are presented below. On August 21, 1996, these arguments were made to the Standing Committee. In addition, a more thorough written document was also submitted to the Committee.
Using examples of a new townhouse project and new apartment building in Burlington, it was found that economic rents (to cover construction costs and a return on investment) would average $1,200 - $1,300 a month. This is double the current average rents of $684 a month.
Using Fair Rental Policy Organization (FRPO) statistics, each older apartment in Ontario needs about $12,500 in capital improvements. Costs passed through to tenants for these repairs could result in rent increases of over 20%. However, with the proposed legislation, these much needed repairs will still not be done because landlords can only increase rents by 4% for capital improvements.
The government also proposes to eliminate Rental Housing Protection Act, which was enacted to prevent the loss of rental housing stock through conversion to other uses, demolitions and renovations. This could tempt landlords to get out of the rental housing market completely because it is impossible for them to maintain their stock within the proposed rent guidelines. With Halton facing a vacancy rate of around one percent, loss of affordable rental housing is ill afforded.
The proposal to allow tenants and landlords to negotiate an above-guideline increase in rent has potential to be a powerful tool for tenants. However, the government should consider a process whereby tenants are not asked to pay for deferred maintenance which should have been done to maintain the building at minimum property standards
All of the proposed changes will have a significant impact on both tenants and landlords. For tenants to be able to exercise their rights and benefit from the protection of the legislation, they have to be well informed. However, the decision by the Ontario government to close the housing registries in Halton (see below) is not a signal that the government is committed to informing tenants of their rights. Where will tenants turn, in the future, for advice on rent increases, protection from harassment and assistance in ensuring that their homes are maintained in a decent manner.
People searching for affordable housing in Halton will have a hard time finding it. The Provincial government, through the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, has cancelled funding, effective August 31, 1996, for both the North Halton and South Halton Housing Registries. The Halton Housing Coalition is concerned about the elimination of the Housing Registries, an important resource to many members of this community. They provided a listing of available shared accommodations, apartments and townhouses. They made referrals to subsidized housing and legal agencies. Also, the Housing Registries were active advocates giving voice to the housing needs of low and moderate income people throughout Halton.
"I am amazed that the Provincial government would cancel funding for the registries in Halton", said Halton Housing Coalition Chair, Ted Hildebrandt. "The vacancy rate in Halton is less than one per cent. It seems to me that more than ever this service is essential. How are people going to connect with affordable housing if this service is eliminated? As outlined in [the HHC's] recent report, low and middle income families already pay a disproportionate amount of their monthly budget in housing costs."
For more information about the Halton Housing Coalition, contact Ted Hildebrandt (Chair) at (905) 632-1975.
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