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Loss of rental units hits Toronto hardest

Toronto Star - October 24, 2002
by Laurie Monsebraaten — GTA Bureau Chief

The vast majority of the 17,515 rental units lost in the Toronto area since 1996 are condos, houses and apartments in houses that are no longer occupied by renters, a senior city planner says.

Nowhere has the loss been greater than in the City of Toronto where 10,070 rental units disappeared, said Katherine Chislett, a senior city planner. The loss in the rental market was highlighted this week in 2001 census figures.

The city tracks the number of apartment units through its property tax rolls and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. monitors condominium construction and occupancy.

The number of apartment buildings has remained about the same, Chislett said, adding that very few have been demolished or converted to condos due to the city's strict rental housing protection policies.

But over StatsCan's survey period (1996-2001), 4,095 condo units were taken off the rental market in Toronto. (Outside the city, the number of rental condo units dropped by 1,941.)

"The other units could only have been lost from the so-called secondary market of houses, apartments in houses and duplexes that are rented rather than owned," Chislett said.

She speculated that low mortgage rates have allowed some former landlords to carry their mortgages without renting out parts of their house.

Ted Tsiakopoulos, a senior market analyst for CMHC, said the economic boom in the late 1980s and the recession of the early 1990s left many speculators with houses and condos they couldn't sell for a profit. They rented the units until the market improved, which it did around 1996, he said.

Toronto Councillor Michael Walker said the StatsCan figures prove the city can't depend on condos and basement apartments to meet the city's rental housing needs.

"We need to build real rental apartments in Toronto that will remain rental," he said. "And we need to bring back real rent controls to ensure these units remain affordable."

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