Ontario Construction News staff writer
Toronto City Council is considering its response to what city staff call a provincial move to weaken rules that protect tenants who lose accommodation due to demolition of rental units often to make way for condo developments.
Among other changes, Ontario Bill 97 proposes amendments to give the minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing enhanced powers to limit the city’s ability to require replacement rental housing and tenant relocation and assistance when existing rental homes are proposed to be demolished, says a report to council from the city’s chief planner and executive director.
The amendments are included in the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act tabled in April that the province says will streamline the construction of rental housing while protecting tenants. Ontario is also seeking public input on potential changes to rental replacement bylaws at municipalities across the province.
The report to council recommends that the city ask the province not to advance a regulation for municipal rental replacement bylaws until meaningful consultation with the city and stakeholders has taken place, including consultation on all draft regulations.
It wants the province to provide transition provisions on municipal rental replacement bylaws to ensure that any rental housing demolition applications submitted to the city prior to the regulation coming into force will continue to be reviewed under the city’s existing bylaw and policies.
The report asks City Council to request that the province continue to allow for municipal decision making on minimum size requirements for replacement rental units.
It also wants assurance from the province that it will ensure that a consistent approach to tenant compensation is reflective of local housing market conditions and supports tenants in continuing to access and afford housing within their neighbourhood.
As well, city staff want an amendment to Bill 97 that would remove proposed provisions requiring the city to meet pre-conditions before passing a rental replacement bylaw and remove a proposal that would enable a minister’s regulation on rental replacement to supersede other Acts or regulations. It also wants an amendment to enable the city to pass a bylaw to prohibit and regulate the increasing number of rental unit demolitions and conversions.
The city says its existing rental replacement policies in place since 2007 have secured the replacement of approximately 5,000 rental units and ensured tenants are provided with compensation to allow them to find alternative housing during redevelopment.
Under current policies developers demolishing rental buildings of more than six units must provide a replacement apartment with similar rents for ten years and with units of comparable size.
The report to council raises fears that changes proposed by the province would allow replacement units to be smaller, more expensive with reduced compensation to tenants while allowing developers to provide cash to displaced tenants rather than new housing.