Rental housing, renovictions key items at council meeting today

Toronto city council is expected to discuss and debate rental housing and renovictions, management of a public square downtown and plans for the Port Lands at its meeting on Wednesday.

Arianne Robinson, press secretary for Mayor Olivia Chow, said in an email on Tuesday that the mayor's key items at the meeting reflect her priorities to build more affordable housing and to protect renters.

"On her one-year anniversary in office, the mayor's rental housing supply program will bring about a co-operative and non-profit housing boom, including funding for 6,000 units to the market with construction starting this year," Robinson said.

"Her second key item moves the renovictions bylaw forward, to protect renters from unfair evictions, and offer renters more security and stability in their homes."

Council will be asked to approve a new rental housing supply program to help the city reach its rent-controlled, affordable and rent-geared-to-income rental housing targets.

City staff are recommending that the city allocate capital funding to 18 affordable rental and rent-geared-to-income housing projects, aimed at speeding the delivery of more than 2,600 new affordable rental homes.

Toronto Mayor-elect Olivia Chow says she has not gotten into details yet about how to increase safety, but will address the issue when she becomes mayor.
Mayor Olivia Chow's key items at the meeting reflect her priorities to build more affordable housing and to protect renters, her press secretary Arianne Robinson says. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Under the program, the city would establish a framework for recommending capital funding for rental homes, up to a maximum of $260,000 per unit.

And it would provide incentives to not-for-profit corporations, non-profit housing co-operatives, Indigenous housing providers, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation and the Toronto Seniors Housing Corporation to support the development of new rent-controlled homes.

'Urgent action' needed on housing, report says

"Toronto is facing two housing crises — one where there is a lack of deeply affordable and supportive housing for low-income marginalized and vulnerable residents; and a more recent one in which rising rents have made it increasingly unaffordable for middle income earners, key workers and professionals to live in the city," writes Abigail Bond, executive director of the city's Housing Secretariat, in a report to be considered by council.

"Urgent action across the entire housing continuum is required to prevent more residents, specifically renters, from experiencing housing instability and potentially homelessness; to avoid Toronto's social service sector facing a deepening key worker staffing crisis; and to allow Toronto's businesses to attract the workforce and labour supply they need to grow."

The report notes that roughly 48 per cent of households in Toronto, or 557,970 households, are renters, with 40 per cent of renter households living in unaffordable housing, according to 2021 census data.

The report adds that the average rent for a two-bedroom condo apartment unit in Toronto is $3,139, according to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board in its Q1-2024 rental market report. This type of housing is the "main rental housing option" available to workers in the city but it comes with no rent control.

Rental units are pictured in Toronto on Jan. 12, 2024.
Rental units are pictured in Toronto on Jan. 12, 2024. A report to be considered by city council this week says roughly 48 per cent of households in Toronto, or 557,970 households, are renters, with 40 per cent of renter households living in unaffordable housing, according to 2021 census data. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Council will also be asked to direct city staff to develop a bylaw to crack down on illegal renovictions. Tenant advocates have said the regulatory change would prevent landlords from evicting people by claiming they plan to renovate a property, then increasing the rent and finding a new tenant.

"There have been reports of a growing trend of renovictions in Toronto, where a landlord illegitimately evicts a tenant by alleging that vacant possession of a rental unit is needed to undertake renovations or repairs," reads a report to be considered by council,

"Renovictions can include refusing to allow a tenant who has exercised their right of first refusal to return post-renovation, illegally raising the rent on a returning tenant, or not undertaking major renovations after evicting renters. This results in the displacement of tenants, the permanent loss of affordable market rental housing, and contributes to rising homelessness in Toronto."

Council to review Hamilton bylaw on renovictions

As part of this item, council will review staff analysis of Hamilton's Renovation Licence and Tenant Relocation By-law, which is set to take effect Jan. 1.

Under the Hamilton bylaw, a landlord will be required to apply for a city renovation licence within seven days of issuing an eviction notice to a tenant.

The bylaw will only allow the eviction and renovations to take place if the landlord has already secured all building permits to complete the work and provides an engineer's report confirming vacancy is necessary. The landlord will also need to make arrangements with any tenant who wants to return to their unit once the renovation is complete.

Visitors to Yonge-Dundas Square are pictured on Dec. 14, 2023.
Visitors to Yonge-Dundas Square are pictured on Dec. 14, 2023. City council is expected to direct the Sankofa Square board of management to develop a multi-year business plan for the public space. (Alex Lupul/CBC)

Also on the agenda is a request by the city's executive committee that council direct the Sankofa Square board of management to develop a multi-year business plan.

The plan is expected to include rebranding of the space from Yonge-Dundas Square to Sankofa Square, "enhanced revenue streams," strategies to improve the square's safety and reporting on outcomes of community engagement on the square's revitalization.

In addition, council will discuss the future of Villiers Island, an area under development in the Port Lands that will receive a permanent Indigenous name this fall. A city staff report recommends a number of amendments to guide how the island will develop.

The amendments will to "permit a dense, inclusive, sustainable, and walkable urban community," the report says.

The report adds that the amendments would enable an estimated 9,000 residential units to be built. Of these, about 2,200 to 2,700 would be affordable housing. The amendments would also permit a minimum of about 80,000 square metres of retail and office space, 7,850 square metres of community space and a Toronto Public Library neighbourhood branch.