By Peter D'Gama.
TToronto is in the midst of a housing crisis. Renters and those seeking to buy their first homes are in precarious economic situation paying more than 45% of their income towards rent or mortgage. While the cost of housing continues to go up workers incomes are going down. This has given rise to growing inequality. According to a report conducted by the Canadian Centre for policy Alternatives, Born To win the 87 wealthiest families “now have 4,448 times more wealth than the average Canadian family and they collectively own the same as the lowest 12 million Canadians.
While climate change ignited forest fires rage in northern Ontario another type of economic FIRE (Finance Insurance Real Estate) is engulfing urban cities such as Toronto with increasing rents and housing costs putting people on the streets while corporate profits and income s of the elite and Real Estate Income Trust rise higher.
To combat the decline in affordable housing stock urgent action is needed. To put out the economic flames ignited by neo-liberalism and free market economics I will put forth a Workers Agenda which has as a main pillar policies to dampen the high cost of Housing.
A Rent Freeze on all Rentals that includes:
Rent Freeze Now! Four-year rent freeze: The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto has been climbing. Altough CMHC figures put the Average Median at $1202 in Toronto, the real asking rates range from $1600.-1800. This approaches the entire monthly income of a full-time minimum wage worker -- about $2200 as of June 1, 2018. Low income and middle income families have to scramble to pay for transport, food and clothing and other amenities. Rents continue to rise despite a limited form of rent controls in Ontario. Workers , unemployed and those on social assistance need a Rent Freeze Now! If elected my first act would be to ask that Toronto City Council should officially request a 0% rent increase be set over the next four years.
Tie rent control to the unit: While the current allowable annual rent increase is 1.8% the regulation does not apply between tenancies, also known as ‘vacancy decontrol’. Every time a tenant moves out, the landlord can increase the rent as much as the market will bear. As a result, overall rents in the city have gone up by astronomically in the last year. Tenants have been moved out of rooming houses or as one case in which Iwitnessed at landlord tribunal their tenancy is declared unauthorized and landlord tries to enforce a new tenancy agreement at much higher rent.
The Province can immediately stop renovictions across Ontario by removing the incentive for renovictions. The Province needs to modify the Ontario Residential Tenancy Act to apply rent control to the unit and not to tenancy -- as is the case now. We need a Workers Agenda at City Council that will pressure the Province to make this change and put a stop to such unjust and predatory evictions once and for all.
Improve living conditions for tenants: Another way to prevent renovictions is to ensure rental buildings are well-maintained. If landlords are incentivized to renovict tenants, they are also incentivized to let affordable rental buildings get run down until they must be renovated and as a result become less affordable. I will demand changes to the Residential Tenancies Act of Ontario to remove one-year time limit on complaints against a landlord, to exclude landlords from the tribunal operating under the Act, to widen tenants’ access to free legal representation at the tribunal, and to make the Investigations and Enforcement Unit of the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs really work for and with tenants. Create a structure to enforce Landlord Tenant Board decisions.
Enforce standards of maintenance by law: The City needs to have inspectors regularly check building conditions. If repairs are not done, the City needs to take the responsibility for carrying them out and bill the owner. If the owner doesn’t pay their bills or fines, the City will have the power to expropriate the building for and include them in City Of Toronto-owned housing stock or provide incentives to develop a tenant cooperative.
Build Affordable Public Housing Now: The Market has failed residents of Toronto. Workers that work here find it difficult to live here and forced to move out due to pressures of gentrification which have seen long established working class neighbourhood redeveloped to suit the needs of developers and REITs seeking to maximize and accumulate profits. This needs to be stopped by the City promoting an aggressive build out of public housing utilizing city owned land. As a modest step forward, create a public land trust, incorporating air rights above city property. Institute inclusionary zoning whereby private developers are required to provide a certain number of affordable housing units and contribute funds for public amenities such as parks and community centres. Abandoned property that developers just sit on should be expropriated on a develop it or lose it basis.
Empower Create TO and Toronto Community Housing Agency to own all the city’s public housing, under democratic tenant control: This new non-market housing will be on city-owned land. Toronto should use land it currently owns within its portfolio as well as acquisition of new land to build new affordable housing at the rate of 20-25000 units per year. Unlike luxury development, the supply of affordable, public, non-market housing open to all will help counter displacement and gentrification.
Implement inclusionary zoning:
Inclusionary zoning requires developers to provide a portion of new residential projects
for affordable housing. This would help ensure that low- and modest-income families
could still live in the central city instead of being forced to move further away in order to
meet the expense of accommodation. The Target should be 35% reserved for affordable housing defined as30% of income and should not be time limited but run in perpuity or for 99 years.