Jessica Bell MPP, University–Rosedale

Government of Ontario

The Conservatives could do the right thing for renters, first-time home buyers and farmers tomorrow. But will they?

Published on May 23, 2023

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working to improve Government Bill 97.   

The Conservatives like to say this bill is going to solve our housing crisis. That’s not true. Bill 97 doesn’t do much to help renters and makes it much easier for big developers to pave over our farmland with expensive sprawl.  

The Conservatives have had five years to fix the housing crisis, and they’ve failed. It has never been more expensive to rent or buy a home, and there’s nothing in Bill 97 that’s going to reverse this trend.

Tomorrow, in committee, we will be introducing over 25 amendments to improve the bill. These amendments will help us to stop illegal evictions and help renters, build more affordable housing, increase density, end exclusionary zoning, and protect our farmland.

We need to get serious about solving our housing crisis. Tomorrow, the Conservatives will have the opportunity to do the right thing and vote for amendments that will help us solve the generational housing crisis. Let's see what they do.

Here's a more detailed summary of my amendments:

  • Renters across Ontario should get be properly compensated and have a guaranteed right of return to their home at the same rent if their building is demolished and replaced with a condo. Municipalities should also keep their power to protect renters in situations like this.

    In Bill 97, the Conservatives are proposing to weaken municipalities’ power to protect renters when their building is being demolished and replaced with a condo. The residents at 145 St George are organizing to keep their homes, and these amendments will help them.

  • Bring back a fair definition of affordable housing, based on what a person can pay, which is a third of a person’s income.

    The Conservatives have weakened the official definition of affordable housing.  In Ontario, a home is considered affordable – and is therefore eligible for deep developer fee discounts - if it rents or sells at 80% of market value.  
  • End exclusionary zoning and allow townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes on all residential properties to spur the construction of homes.

  • Curbing the Conservatives’ abuse of MZOs. Bill 97 gives the Conservatives greater power to override provincial laws and democratic local processes and quickly approve a building, a warehouse or a factory, even if it’s on farmland or a flood plain.

    We’re all for fast-tracking projects for the public good or projects that are requested by a municipality, like a new hospital or affordable housing. I’m thinking of the 59 modular homes that languish in a warehouse because Minister Cho doesn’t want affordable homes in his riding. Giving the Conservatives the power, however, to move their developer-donor friends’ projects to the front of the planning queue just doesn’t seem fair to me. 
  • Bring in “Use it or lose it” policies to give municipalities the power to impose penalties on developers that have been given city approval to build but are not starting construction within a reasonable timeframe. Even former mayor John Tory likes this idea.

  • We’re introducing amendments to ensure that tenants do not have to pay any extra fees to install and run an AC window unit. In response to our organizing and the Human Rights Tribunal ruling, the Conservatives are granting renters the right to install an AC window unit. 

    The issue is that the Conservatives are also giving landlords the right to bring in seasonal fees to pay for any increase in electricity.  Renters already pay record high rent.  They shouldn’t have to pay extra just to reasonably enjoy their unit and stay safe and misery-free in the hot summer.

  • Bring in vacancy control on all rental homes, including new homes. The single most effective way to stabilize rent and protect renters from eviction is to bring back vacancy control to Ontario. Vacancy control would place a cap on how much the rent can be raised between tenancies.

  • Protect renters against illegal eviction by requiring landlords to get their building permits before they apply to evict a renter, increase the fines against landlords that illegal evict, increase the amount of compensation the wronged tenant receives, and require the landlord to offer the illegally evicted tenant the first similar-in-size vacant home available at the same rent.

    The Conservatives have introduced measures to strengthen eviction laws, including requiring a landlord to prove they need to evict a tenant for renovations to commence. We support these measures, in fact, we advocated for them.  The challenge, however, is the Conservatives proposals are too weak to work because they don’t address the reality that our eviction laws aren’t enforced. 

  • Permit Inclusionary Zoning so developers are required to build a percentage of affordable homes in big new buildings anywhere a municipality chooses.  Toronto has had an Inclusionary Zoning law ready for implementation since 2021, but the Conservatives refuse to give the city permission to implement it.

These are some of the many amendments we’ll be introducing tomorrow.  As always, we welcome your feedback, and look forward to continuing to organize with you.