All levels of government must take wise bold steps to tackle Toronto’s housing crisis to ensure everyone has a safe and affordable home. I want to share some recent provincial, federal and municipal announcements that affect the housing sector.
These measures include a small vacant home tax, rooming house expansion, measures to tackle money laundering in the housing sector, bad changes to the Landlord Tenant Board, and new funding for affordable housing in Canada, with a summary of how it affects University Rosedale.
Please reach out if you want to talk or collaborate.
MPP University Rosedale
[email protected] | 416 535 7026
Ontario’s new Bill 276 punishes people standing up for their rights at the LTB
Schedule 27 in Ontario’s new Bill 276 punishes Ontarians who are advocating for themselves and other renters at the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB). The schedule bans recording proceedings at tribunals, including the Human Rights Tribunal and the LTB, and sharing those recordings. Those who do, can now face fines of up to $25,000.
I believe the Government is introducing Schedule 27 to scare and stop the people who are advocating for renters.
Recordings by tenants have helped inform the public that the LTB is conducting a dangerous eviction blitz in the middle of a pandemic. They have also provided evidence of breaches of procedural fairness. Recordings show that some hearings are chaotic, disorganized, and unfair. Tenants have been evicted in hearings that last minutes. Hearings proceeded, even if the tenant had a language barrier that limited their ability to understand what was going on, had poor or no access to a phone or internet connection, or didn’t turn up to the hearing because they didn’t receive an official notice.
Allowing for the recording of hearings has additional benefits. Recordings help Ontarians with language barriers, or those who want to collect evidence for their own case.
The recording of tribunals also ensures the LTB meets the courts' open principal to ensure rulings are fair and follow the law, especially in the case with the LTB where adjudicators are increasingly receiving minimal training before deciding cases. The court has ruled that the open court principal is a fundamental one, and that the personal information and privacy concerns are secondary to it. That principle directs tribunals to protect confidentiality only where a party seeking it establishes that it is necessary to protect important interests. Privacy is decided on a case by case basis.
The bottom line is this. If the Ford Government wants to help people stay safe and housed during the pandemic, they should stop punishing people trying to stay housed, and instead provide rental support, an eviction moratorium, and true LTB reform to ensure everyone quickly gets a fair hearing.
The Minister responsible for Bill 276 is MPP Sakaria. The bill is at second reading. We are not sure when the bill will move to committee as we don’t know if and when the House Leader Paul Calandra will suspend the legislature. Here’s where you can submit written comments and apply to speak to bill 276 when it reaches committee. Please cc-us at [email protected] if you want me to share your concerns in the legislature or in committee.
Is the Attorney General planning on taking the LTB permanently online?
During a recent LTB hearing, an adjudicator revealed that under the LTB’s Digital First Strategy, in-person hearings would no longer be conducted, even after the pandemic ends. This statement was heard by several observers.
I am asking Attorney General Doug Downey in a sign-on letter with my MPP colleagues to clarify the government’s plans to keep the LTB online post-pandemic. You can read that letter here.
Since the LTB moved to virtual hearings, there have been growing reports from legal clinics across Ontario of systematic procedural unfairness, adversely affecting people with disabilities, language barriers due to ethnicity, a lack of access to technology, and more. These concerns go to the very heart of the LTB’s legal responsibilities to the public which are access to justice for the province’s most poor and marginalized tenants, and the broader, moral imperative that housing is a human right. Should the LTB continue to conduct virtual hearings in perpetuity, my concern is tenants will continue to face unfair evictions, be forced into payment plans they do not understand, and/or be unable to present evidence in their defense.
A permanently online LTB will have difficulty in meeting its obligation to give everyone access to justice and a fair hearing in court.
Let us know if you are working on this issue at [email protected].
Public consultation to expand and better regulate rooming houses across Toronto has begun
Currently, the city’s zoning rules around rooming houses are patchwork and restrictive. Rooming houses are only permitted in the former city of Toronto and some parts of the former cities of York and Etobicoke. Houses in the former cities of Toronto and Etobicoke require a licence, whereas a licence is not required in the former city of York.
I support allowing and regulating rooming houses across Toronto because it will increase the number of safe and affordable housing options for low and moderate income Torontonians, and get people housed. I will be providing a written submission on this proposal.
Here’s our take on the Federal Budget
The Federal Government’s budget was released on Wednesday. Here’s our take.
New vacant home tax too timid to tame out-of-control home prices
The government will bring in a national vacant home tax by 2022. Vacant home taxes can quickly increase housing supply at no cost to governments as it incentivizes absent owners to rent or sell their vacant home.
This vacant home tax will not do enough to make housing more affordable or make it easier for residents of Canada to buy a home. The tax only narrowly applies to non-resident non-Canadian owned real estate, and a one percent tax won’t have much dent on a housing sector that rose by 31% in 2020 alone.
Ontario should step up. Modeled after the BC law, I am developing a motion to introduce a fair and comprehensive GTHA-wide two percent vacant home and speculation tax on homes owned by both non-residents and people who do not pay the majority of their taxes in Ontario. I will be hosting a round-table on my motion to get feedback in the coming weeks. RSVP in advance at [email protected]
Corporate transparency to tackle money laundering, tax avoidance, but why the delay?
The government has given the Industry Department $2.1 million to develop a beneficial ownership registry by 2025. Among other things, a beneficial ownership registry would require corporations, trusts and partnerships that buy or own land to make public the people who actually own the property. Individuals already have to make public their identity when they purchase property. Making ownership transparent is an effective way to clamp down on money laundering, fraud and tax avoidance conducted by people who buy and sell property anonymously. A 2019 BC government investigation concluded that in 2018, and between $800 million and $5.3 billion was laundered through the real estate market, raising housing prices by an estimated 5%.
The Federal government shouldn’t wait five years to rid the real estate sector of money laundering, fraud and tax avoidance, and should move forward the timeline for implementation.
$2.5 billion more for affordable housing
The government has already committed $40 billion over 10 years to its national housing strategy. This budget increases its commitment to housing by $2.5 billion. The majority of this new money ($1.5 billion) will go to the Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI), to channel through municipalities to build and repair 4000 affordable housing units. In University Rosedale, this funding will go to creating supportive housing at 222 Spadina and 877 Yonge Ave.
The Federal NDP, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and many advocates say this affordable housing package falls far short of what is needed to help the 1.6 million Canadians living in inadequate and affordable housing and the escalating homelessness crisis. The Federal NDP is calling for $7 billion to be directed to the RHI program to build 24,000 units over the next two to three years.
No funding for Indigenous housing
We share the concern of Indigenous housing advocates such as the CHRA Indigenous Housing Caucus that there still is no sign of an urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy. Indigenous people are 11 times more likely to use a homeless shelter but there remains no “for Indigenous, by Indigenous” strategy to close the housing gap between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people, despite the Minister’s mandate letter explicitly calling for an urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy. Budget 2021 still fails to deliver on this commitment.