Housing (Nov/Dec 2023)

Analysis from Ricardo Tranjan with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), and an announcement from the York-South Weston Tenant Union.

Nov 17, 2023

Rent Controls Make Sense, Unless You're a Greedy Landlord

By Ricardo Tranjan

Rents continue to skyrocket in Toronto. The average asking rent for a two-bedroom unit has reached $3,400. To reasonably afford a one-bedroom unit, full-time workers must earn $26 per hour, nearly $10 more than the minimum wage. What’s worse, rent controls are becoming weaker in Ontario.

The Ford government abolished rent controls in units built after 2018. Occupied units built before that are subject to an annual rent increase guideline, which will be 2.5 per cent in 2024.

To get around that, landlords are increasingly applying for above-guideline rent increases (AGIs), which can add up to 9 per cent over three years, on top of the guideline increases. There are no controls on vacant units, which pushes average rents up and creates a financial incentive for evictions.

Against this backdrop, Toronto City Council is considering a new housing plan. If approved, any new unit built with city support will be subjected to rent controls. The city’s plan also asks the province to re-enact controls in units built after 2018.

Landlords and developers are sure to argue against these measures. They always argue against controls, saying regulation slows new construction, which is bad for everyone.

But that’s not true.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation(CMHC) — the government agency with the best housing data — has carefully analyzed the impact of rent controls on construction, which the agency calls “rent starts.” The analysis looked at big Canadian cities with and without rent controls from 1971 to 2019 — almost 50 years of data.

The main finding of the analysis: "There was no significant evidence that rental starts were lower in rent control markets than in no rent control markets."

Rent controls don’t slow construction or make rentals unprofitable. They simply put a limit on profit. The real reason landlords oppose rent controls is self-interest and greed. They want the freedom to squeeze tenants.

Training to Take On Landlords and Stop Rent Increases

We asked the York South-Weston Tenant Union to tell us about their new program

By York South-Weston Tenant Union

Fed up with ever-rising rent? Inspired by the rent strike happening in York South-Weston? Want to make more stuff like that happen?

The York South-Weston Tenant Union in Toronto organizes free online workshops to learn and exchange ideas about how to build tenant power in your building and community. We provide step-by-step guides on starting a tenant association, taking action and fighting back against landlords’ greed.

You’ll learn to connect specific issues in a building — like lack of repairs, unfair rent increases and above-guideline rent increase (AGI) applications — with broader dynamics in the housing market, including the role of corporate landlords. We give you strategies to fight back.

You will hear first-hand from experienced tenant organizers from across the province. They’ll talk about how to design your flyers, what messaging works at the door and how to pivot to respond to the landlord's messaging around AGIs and renovations.

Hear about the different stages of escalating a fight against a landlord, from knocking on doors, to holding a meeting, to phone zaps, rallies and finally to a rent strike. You'll also be invited to get hands-on experience in the rent strikes in York South-Weston.

Together, we’llwalk through how to stop rent increases, the importance of collective organizing, and the role of and limitations to relying on the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). Remember: Lawyers won’t save us!

The next round starts in December with meetings once a week for three weeks. For more information, visit www.tenantunion.ca/tenantpower, email info@tenantunion.ca or call 647-479-9796.

These article appear in the Nov/Dec 2023 issue.