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Baffling talk at Queen's Park on rents

Toronto Star - October 10, 1975

We have a feeling of uneasiness about the way Premier William Davis and his new housing minister, John Rhodes, have been talking these past few days about their election campaign commitment to help tenants hit by ferocious rent increases. Are they trying to back off?

It looks that way, given the various conflicting statements on the subject since Rhodes took over this new post.

Certainly Davis made it clear during the campaign that he woud set up rent review boards and give them the power, at no cost to tenants, to take gouging landlords to court. Now they're muttering that maybe there's a better way. If there is they'd better spell it out quickly. Some kind of official intervention is needed to correct the unbalanced rental market.

So far controls look like the only real possibility for action. Clearly they are no long-term solution, because in isolation they hinder the development and maintenance of an adequate housing stock. But at present there's a critical shortage.

People are having to pay as much as 40 to 50 per cent of their take-home pay in rent. They can't move to cheaper accommodation because they isn't any. In these circumstances, rent controls, even though they are inherently unfair in the absence of controls of all other prices and incomes, become inescapable.

They must, of course be accompanied by an urgent building program to increase the supply of rental housing apartments, duplexes, row houses, whatever -- so that the market forces will once again exert their own controls. The best solution to an outrageous rent increase is the choice of moving to cheaper accommodation.

Davis and Rhodes need waste no more time explaining and exploring. They should act at once to control rents and to embark on a building program to increase the supply of rental housing.

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