This article was originally published by the Canadian Press and is reprinted with permission.
Parents have waged a war against rental fees as prohibitive and raising doubts about why some units sit empty.
After a judge rejected an appeal, the Toronto Rent Regulation Committee is continuing to scour building listings for properties in need of an experienced concierge, a rep and other amenities to rent out on short-term lease, commission-free.
The calls have come from around the city, said committee chair Councillor Jane Garland.
“Housing in this city is so tight. … To put young families out on a winner by not having any services is not something I would like to see.”
Ken Harris, Toronto Rent Regulation Committee chair
“This is a city that is growing,” he said. “We want to make sure the neighbourhoods that we build with are healthy neighbourhoods and well-bused and safe and people are able to live here.”
Yolande Doolittle, a manager at the homeless advocacy group Resolve Canada, said a growing number of vacancies in some areas indicates people are turning to rental housing as a last resort, often because the cost is cheaper than owning.
“They can’t afford their housing, so they are having to take a gamble,” she said.
In a democracy, Harris said, people have the right to have a say, including having a voice in the Rent Regulation Committee, whose nominees are picked from building owners.
Families, he said, “have the right to say this is wrong.”
His proposals to rein in the costs, which include inspections of apartments, emerged after a court-enforced freeze on rent increases. The freeze is still in effect.
What do Toronto’s tenants say? http://t.co/K75nCSbyLp — Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) January 19, 2016
“It’s a big consultation and because it’s such a complicated process, people often don’t understand what the committee is doing or are confused about it,” he said.
Voters over 55, and companies with more than 50 employees, are exempt from city rent hikes.
The Rent Regulations Committee received 2,481 proposals in 2015. A year later, a staggering 3,236 were in the works, Garland said.
In one of the spaceier recommendations, the committee wants to limit the number of rooms per unit and increase the area per space — all to protect quality of life in neighbourhoods and stop property owners from building more than 100 units in one area, Garland said.
For former renters like Kathleen McCullough, who waited two years to get her apartment back, the cost of rent increases have driven her out of a city she loves.
“The costs of housing are going up,” said McCullough, who lost her apartment while she was being treated for cancer. “It does drive people out.”
Sporting a barrettes, she’s attending the Rent Regulation Committee meeting to ask for an hour a week for a free executive assistant and a private elevator for her apartment building in Lorne Park.
“For a community to thrive, we need to attract all types of people,” she said. “That includes those who are healthy, those who are disabled and those who have lost their homes.”
The rent control issue is simmering elsewhere, too.
Toronto City Council recently voted down a push to stop landlords from raising rents every two years.
Federal and provincial governments are also looking at ways to cushion the cost of housing, including a national housing strategy.
For the people living in rental units who simply want a place to put down roots, cost may never be their concern.
“Most people just need a home,” McCullough said. “I think we all need a home — for everybody.”