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Toronto councillors call for province to protect tenants from rent increases

Councillors Ana Bailao and Josh Matlow are calling for the province to review the Residential Tenancies Act and look specifically at rent control.

A pair of Toronto city councillors are calling on the province to protect tenants from steep rent increases.

Coun. Josh Matlow and Coun. Ana Bailão will hold a special joint meeting of the Tenants Issues Committee and Affordable Housing Committee in early April, where they will ask the province to review the Residential Tenancies Act.

Most landlords are limited by provincial law in how much they can increase rent each year. But there’s an exemption for buildings built after 1991, where there’s no cap on increases.

That’s something Matlow, who chairs the Tenants Issues Committee, calls “unethical” and said creates two classes of tenants.

“Their rent can go up by hundreds if not thousands of dollars without any notice, and they’re in a real bind,” he said.

Because there are so few rental apartments on the market, one increase can mean tenants, especially young people and seniors, are “forced out of their own communities,” he said.

Matlow also wants the province to review the part of the act that deals with above guidelines rent increases for pre-1991 buildings.

He says landlords often use basic improvements to buildings to justify rent increases at the Landlord and Tenant Board.

The policy was originally introduced in the 1990s to provide an incentive for developers to build rental housing, but Bailão said she is concerned it’s not meeting its original goals. She added that the review must also look at the lack of rental housing supply to understand the bigger picture.

She’s worried that if something isn’t done soon, people just won’t be able to live near where they work or study in the city.

“These kind of rent increases are not healthy, are not sustainable, and at the end of the day, we’re all going to lose because of it,” she said.

Alejandra Ruiz, a member of anti-poverty group ACORN, which is mounting its own new campaign for rent control, says she hears stories of people faced with steep increases “all the time.”

“People are struggling to pay rent or buy food,” she said.

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