Tenant City

Distilling rental housing policy, tenants' rights and other social justice news for the GTA.

Monday, September 18, 2006

T.O. Apartment standards violations online

Considering moving to a new building? Curious about how many apartment standards violations have been reported for a given address in Toronto? Want to know if your fellow tenants have complained to the City about maintenance problems?

This online tool that reports every Order to Comply issued by the City's Apartment Stadards folks, as well as details and status of the order for those issued after July 31, 2005.

Information about such orders is only kept online for 2 years, and once an order has been complied with, detailed information about the complaint is no longer available to the public.

The database shows three citations for my building, but since they were issued prior to July 31, all I can tell is that they are "closed".

Friday, June 23, 2006

Hot weather a serious risk for tenants

From mid-April through to mid-September, the entirely window-covered east-facing wall of my apartment transforms the place into an intolerably hot greenhouse. Thank heaven for my tiny window air conditioner! If you're stuck without one, Toronto Public Health has several good resources for landlords (and concerned or at-risk tenants) on the subject of hot weather:
High temperatures combined with high humidity can be very dangerous for vulnerable people, including the very young, the elderly, those with chronic illnesses or those on medications that make them more sensitive to heat. Vulnerable individuals who live in buildings without adequate cooling are especially at risk... [more]

See the following links for more information:

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Has your building gone smoke-free?

Get a whiff of this!, Hamilton Spectator, 13 May 2006
[D]ozens of agencies are gearing up to support tenants and condo owners in their fight to declare their buildings smoke-free, including the Ontario Tobacco-Free Network, Clean Air Coalition of B.C., Non-Smokers' Rights Association, Canadian Cancer Society - and Health Canada, which notes succinctly: "There is only one way to eliminate ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke); remove the source."

Indeed, smoke drifts through the ventilation systems, electrical outlets, cable and phone jacks, and ceiling fixtures - not to mention through cracks and gaps around sinks, plumbing, windows, doors, floors, walls and ceilings, says the Council for a Tobacco-Free Toronto (CTFT), which notes landlords are obliged to seal units and clean the air as much as possible.

Still, the fact that it takes three hours to remove 95 per cent of the smoke from a single cigarette, gives an idea of the challenge...

Saturday, April 29, 2006

No end to vacancy decontrol in new bill

Province's new rent bill finally ready, Toronto Star, 29 April 2006
The legislation, to be introduced by Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen, is meant to fulfil a Liberal election promise to restore "real protection" for tenants.

But the legislation may not go far enough to satisfy tenant advocates, while going too far for landlords.

Specifically, sources say the legislation will keep "vacancy decontrol," the policy introduced by the previous Conservative government to allow landlords to jack up rents on vacant apartments to whatever level the market will bear.

On the other hand, the legislation reportedly restores many of the tenant-friendly provisions from the NDP government's Rent Control Act that were repealed by the Conservatives.

Additional press: Globe and Mail.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Reaction to T.O. homeless survey

We need a national housing strategy, not a head count, Toronto Star, 23 April 2006
Determining whether 200, 500 or 1,000 people happen to be sleeping outside on April 19 shouldn't radically change the response — 31,985 homeless people are too many...

Increasing social assistance rates and minimum wage to liveable levels, new social housing and rent supplements will all help the city address its homeless disaster.

Spending money and wasting time on another study will only detract from the main issue: We are the only industrialized country in the world without a national housing program.

Additional press: Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, City of Toronto.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Ready for the hydro hike?

Low-income families face biggest pinch, Ottawa Sund, 13 April 2006
Ottawa Hydro says the average family uses 750 kilowatt hours of power per month at an average cost of $76. That will jump to about $85.

Dana Silk, general manager of the EnviroCentre, a non-profit organization that helps people reduce energy costs, said low-income families are at risk because they generally use electric heating devices that consume a lot of juice...

"In the short term, it's a problem for landlords," said John Dickie, chairman of the Eastern Ontario Landlord Organization.

"In the long term, it's a problem for tenants."

Additional press: Toronto Star, Globe and Mail.

Friday, April 07, 2006

In lieu of more serious series

CMHC's Time Series Data page lets you browse mountains of housing market datasets, but unfortunately they aren't available for free.

The annual Rental Market Reports, however, which are free, do contain a great deal of useful data broken down by region and census metropolitan area.

The following figures illustrate some basic data drawn from the 2004 and 2005 reports:

Figure illustrating vancancy rates by number of bedrooms for the Toronto CMA from 2003 to 2005.

Figure illustrating average rents by number of bedrooms for the Toronto CMA from 2003 to 2005.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Rent banks get boost

McGuinty Government Helps Low-Income Tenants, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, 03 April 2006
The government is investing an additional $4 million in the Provincial Rent Bank program to promote housing stability by helping low-income tenants to avoid eviction for non-payment of rent due to an unforeseen crisis. Tenants with lower incomes may apply to their local rent bank to receive financial assistance to address short-term rent arrears. If a tenant's application is approved, the outstanding rent is paid directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant.
While most regions have at least one rent bank (Toronto has several), York Region does not.

Additional press: KW Record.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Of condos and landlords

Landlords ride out housing boom, National Post, 27 March 2006
The condo boom has created renewed competition for the apartment industry because many condo owners -- as much as 50% in downtown Toronto -- are renting out their property and competing with traditional landlords.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Activist-turned-developer pushes for better low-end housing

Building a caring approach: Former tenant advocate brings compassion to his projects, Toronto Star, 18 March 2006
While it may be ironic that Cohen today finds himself sitting at the helm of the Daniels Corp., one of Canada's largest development firms, the Saskatchewan native still tries to put his progressive mark on many of his projects.

"We build homes, and our success has given us both the opportunity and responsibility to do everything we can to assist the thousands upon thousands of people who can't put a meal on the table for their family, let alone buy a new home," he says.

Cohen has overseen the development of about 16,000 homes around the GTA. The firm was honoured by the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association as its first Home Builder of the Year, and has also been a repeat winner of Tarion's prestigious Service Excellence Award...

But the projects that get Cohen really excited are the ones at the lower end of the affordability scale. Daniels is responsible for building 3,600 rental housing units, more than 700 rent-to-own units, and 716 affordable properties aimed at first-time buyers...

Just last week, Daniels launched its latest affordable housing project: Wave Lakeshore West. The 13-storey condo — comprising studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units — is being built near Lake Shore Blvd. W. and Kipling Ave. in Etobicoke.

Daniels got both the federal and provincial governments on board with the project, which is targeted to tenants who are having trouble cobbling together a down payment. With both Daniels and the two levels of government helping out with the down payment, the company says it's possible for a couple earning minimum wage to afford one of the units.

Additional press: National Post.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Have your say on the TPA at city hall

Public forum on tenant protection, City of Toronto: Shelter, Support and Housing Administration
In their 2003 election platform, the Ontario Liberals pledged to "repeal the misnamed Tenant Protection Act and replace it with an effective tenant protection law in our first year of government."

It's now 2006, and the law has not yet been changed.

The City of Toronto wants you to join us in sending a message to our provincial representatives.

  • The current Tenant Protection Act must be changed.
  • Ontarians have a right to live in good affordable housing.
  • Save the existing supply of affordable housing.

Have your say at this public forum – everyone's invited!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Tenant tax rate 174% higher than homeowners'

Apartment renters looking for help with tax fairness campaign, Dundas Star News, 03 Mar 2006
A group of apartment tenants is tired of paying unfairly inflated tax rates, and is looking for support from apartment renters across Hamilton to help close the gap between residential and multi-residential taxpayers...

Their municipal tax rate is currently 2.74 times that of residential taxpayers [in Hamilton]. Eighteen per cent of their monthly rent goes directly to municipal taxes.

Municipal staffers reply that while tenants pay a higher rate relative to property value, the vastly higher average value of homes means homeowners pay more in absolute terms.

A better measure of fairness is ability to pay, or the ratio of property tax assesment to income (which is more difficult to determine, and so infrequently enters the debate).

The real problem is that many tenants are unaware that they pay property tax through rent, and municipal political discourse is often suffused with the notion that only homeowners deserve to have a say in a city's affairs.