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This is a document the Ontario Liberal Party presented when they were in opposition.

Now (2006) that they are the government, they have reversed their position on many of these issues including:

  • vacancy decontrol
  • open and fair discussion on proposed legislation
  • the 22% cut to welfare

Here is their document verbatim including the misnumbering of the sections and spelling mistakes.




LIBERAL DISSENTING REPORT
ON
RENT CONTROL CONSULTATIONS



Submitted to the Standing Committee on General Government

September 21, 1996


I.       INTRODUCTION

The Liberal members of the Standing Committee on General Government are submitting a dissenting opinion to the committee's report on the their hearings into the Tory government's discussion paper "New Directions: Tenant Protection Legislation". Liberal Housing Critic Alvin Curling (MPP - Scarborough North), Liberal Associate Housing Critic Gerard Kennedy (MPP - York South), and Mario Sergio (MPP - Yorkview) have prepared this report based on listening to over 260 deputations presented to the committee during their three weeks of pubic hearings held across the province from August 1996 to September 5, 1996.

The Mike Harris government has been making contradictory promises on rent control for some time. At the Toronto Star Leader's Debate on April 3, 1995, Mike Harris stated that: "We want to bring in a rent control program...that will truly protect tenants and give them lower rents. We will replace nothing until we have a superior plan in place proven to work better." And the Official Ontario Conservative Party platform in May, 1996 York-South riding by-election promised that "Rent control will continue...Tenant protoection will be improved under the Mike Harris Government....The Mike Harris tenant protection plan will help to ensure that tenants are not subject to unfair rent increases."

At the same time, however, Harris' Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Al Leach, was saying to the Ontario Legislature on October 3, 1995: "Yes, eventually we will be eliminating rent control." And in a speech to Ontario Home Builders' Association on October 19, 1995, he stated "I've said it before and I'll say it again: rent control has got to go."

The Tories determination to gut rent control became clear on June 25, 1996 when Al Leach presented his discussion paper, "New Directions", to the Legislature. After urging by the opposition parties, the Tories agreed that the Standing Committee on General Government would hold three weeks of public hearings on the paper across the province.

Hearings were held in Toronto, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Ottawa, Peterborough, Hamilton, Windsor, London, and Kitchener. Over 260 groups and individuals appeared before the committee and many more submitted written briefs.

Liberals urge the Tory majority members of the committee and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Al Leach, to carefully consider the points raised in this paper before charging blindly foward and scrapping Ontario's system of rent controls - a system that was originally introduced by the Tories under Bill Davis in 1975, that has been improved upon by all three political parties, and one that has served tenants in the province well.

It is unfortunate that the Tories move to end rent control through "new Directions" is only one element in their attack on affordable housing. The government has also:

  • Cancelled all funding for non-profit housing

  • Cut welfare allowance by 22% - directly impacting on the ability of the most vulnerable in our society to afford basic shelter

  • Promised to sell-off all public housing

Through these action, the government is quickly turning the issue of affordable housing from a problem into a crisis.

Liberals are working with tenants to fight hard against the Harris plan to gut rent controls. We believe that it is possible to knock the Tories off this agenda - if there is a strong enough response. We encourage every tenant to get involved, to fight the proposed changes, and to work with the Ontario Liberal Party on a better alternative that will address the real issue: increasing affordable housing. Tenants should call the Liberals at us at (416) 325-7277 or fax us at (416) 325-9075 to find out how they can join the fight. Or follow the fight to save rent control by checking our website at www.interlog.com/~liberal.

Liberals call on tenants to ask their local Tory members on the committee and others in the Tory caucus why they did not want to listen to what was told to them in the hearings and why they insist on moving ahead with their dangerous plant to scrap rent controls. Tory members who participated in the committee hearings included:
John Parker (York-East)
Isabel Bassett (St Andrew St Patrick)
Bart Maves (Niagara Falls)
Terence Young (Halton Centre)
Jim Brown (Scarborough West)
Morley Kells (Etobicoke Lakeshore)
Joseph Spina (Brampton North)
Lillian Ross (Hamilton West)
Gary Stewart (Peterborought)
Margaret Marland (Mississauga South)


II.       WHY A LIBERAL DISSENTING REPORT?

The Tory members of the committee used their majority to ram through a report that was clearly dictated to them by Al Leach. Their "Yes Sir Mr. Minister", say-nothing report could never be supported by Liberals. Specifically, Liberals are submitting this minority report because of five key failures by the Tory members in their majority report:

  • Failure of the Tory members of the committee to fulfil the assigned task

  • Failure of the Tory members to listen to tenants

  • Failure of the Tory government to thoroughly research the impact of their proposed policies

  • Failure of the Tories to understand that implementing "New Directions" will lead to the end of rent control in Ontario

  • Failure of the Tories to examine creative options for reforming and improving rent control, not scrapping it.


III.       FAILURE OF THE CONSERVATIVE MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE TO FULFIL THE ASSIGNED TASK

On June 27, 1996, Conservative House Leader Ernie Eves moved in the Legislature that "the Standing Committee on General Government review and report on the matter of rent control, as set out in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing consultation paper". This motion was supported by all three parties in the House.

In his opening remarks to the committee on August 19, 1996, Al Leach (in his only appearance at the hearings - he never stayed to listen to one tenant or concerned citizen) stated that "I think the most important role that this committee will have is to provide positive input into the development of a package that is going to be fair for tenants and fair for landlords."

The Tory majority report from the committee totally fails to fulfil these tasks - it is merely a very brief, superficial condensation of what tenants and landlords told the committee. Nowhere in the report is their any "positive input" nor any indication that the Tory members actually wanted to have to think and consider making any form of actual recommendations to the Minister.


IV.       FAILURE OF TORY MEMBERS TO LISTEN TO TENANTS

Over 260 witnesses appeared before the committee and many more submitted written briefs. A clear majority of witnesses and 100% of tenants and tenant groups called on the government to stop its plan to end rent controls. Liberals are upset that so much taxpayer money went into staging the three weeks of hearings across the province, when clearly from the beginning the Tory members of the committee were only prepared to listen to Al Leach and not to tenants. Liberals are also very disappointed that so much hard work and research went into the witnesses' presentations while the Tories were not prepared to heed any of the advice given to them.

Liberal members on the committee and many presenters were frustrated that the very limited time (20 minutes) allowed to each group permitted very little opportunity for dialogue or discussion. It was also unfortunate that of the over 400 groups that applied to appear before the committee, there was only adequate time to allow for 260 presentations.

The Tory members of the committee's unwillingness to listen to tenants carries on the practice started by Al Leach even before he tabled his "New Directions" paper. He consulted with tenants before releasing that report, but never took any of their concerns into account.

As laid out in the introduction of this report, Liberal are urging tenants not to lose hope. By continuing to voice out their strong desire to save rent controls, tenants still have a chance to get through to the Mike Harris government.


VI.       FAILURE OF TORY GOVERNMENT TO THOROUGHLY RESEARCH THE IMPACT OF THEIR PROPOSED POLICIES

Al Leach has undertaken very little research on the impact on tenants and affordable housing of his "New Directions" proposal. Tory members of the committee were not concerned with this. When Liberals asked that a final committee report be delayed until such time as the Minister had thoroughly researched the impact of his proposed policies on such fundamental issues as tenant rents and the rental stock supply, the Tory majority on the committee voted down our request.

The government has only presented two research studies as part of its review of rent control legislation. Both reports involved discussion with landlords and developers; neither consultant met or discussed rent control issues with tenants or tenant groups.

Both studies, ("The Challenge of Encouraging Investment in New Rental Housing in Ontario" by Greg Lampert, and "Potential Impacts of Rent De-Control in Selected Markets in Ontario" by John Todd) raise some serious concerns.

  • Lampert states that the new rental stock will only be built if an entire series of measures are implemented by government. These include changing the GST charged on rental construction materials, reforming unfair higher property taxes on rental units, and addressing the capital taxes applied to rental buildings. The majority of landlords and landlord groups that appeared before the committee seemed to concur: scrapping rent controls alone will not encourage the building of new rental stock. Under questioning from Liberal Housing Critic Alvin Curling during the hearing in Kitchener on September 5, 1996, Mr. Lampert was critical of the government moving ahead only on rent control reform, not on any type of comprehensive affordable housing strategy.

  • Lampert is also sceptical of any new private apartment stock being built on the lower-end of the market. Landlord groups also supported this finding during the hearings - not one group stated that Leach's "New Directions" would lead to any new affordable rental stock being built.

  • Todd predicts that scrapping rent controls will result in rent increases for lower-priced units with little to no increases for already high-priced apartments. His findings add further concern to the impact of Leach's policies on affordable rental units.

  • Todd also compares the rental market in Toronto with Vancouver, where rent controls were lifted during the 1980s. Lifting controls in Vancouver has not resulted in the predicted increase in the contstruction of new rental accommodation. Vancouver's current vacancy rate of 1.3% is very close to that of Toronto.


VII.       FAILURE OF TORY GOVERNMENT TO UNDERSTAND THAT IMPLEMENTING "NEW DIRECTIONS" WILL LEAD TO THE END OF RENT CONTROL AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN ONTARIO

Tory members of the Standing Committee spent most of the hearings blindly defending Al Leach's "New Directions" proposal to gut rent controls. Instead, they should have been listening to the vast majority of presenters and the unanimous voice of tenants: implementing "New Directions" will mean and end to rent control in Ontario.

Liberals would like to highlight several key issues in Leach's Tory paper that were raised during the hearings - issues that were totally ignored by the Tory majority members on the committee when they blindly passed theri "Yes Sir Mr. Minister" say- nothing report.



Application of Rent Control Laws

  • At present, rent controls apply to all rental units. New buildings are exempt from controls for their first five years. Rent controls still apply to a rental unit when it is vacated.

Tory Position Paper

  • Rent controls will be removed when an apartment becomes vacant. Once a person moves into an apartment, they are covered by the maximum rent increase guideline for the duration of their occupancy.

  • It will therefore be in the landlord's interest to have as many new tenants as possible. To counter the expected increase in tenant harassment, the paper proposed the creation of an anti-harassment unit in the MMAH and a doubling of the fines for harassing tenants (to $10,000 for individual landlords and $50,000 for corporations).

  • Rent controls will now never be applied to new buildings.

Concerns Raised in the Hearings

  • Vacancy decontrol means the slow death of rent controls, The Lampert Report estimated that 25% of tenants move every year. The study also estimated that over a five year period, about 70% of tenants move at least once. This means that within five years, the majority of apartments and rental homes will have had their rents decontrolled. The majority of tenants in Ontario will be paying more rents under the government's proposals than they would under the current program.

  • Vacancy decontrol will lead to landlord intimidation and higher rents across the market. People will have little chance to "move up" since any unit that becomes vacant will first have its rent hiked - tenants will become a prisoner of their apartment.

  • Even the Tories anticipate that there will be landlord harassment - they have created an anti-harassment unit and have raised fines for tenant harassment. Under the government's new plan, landlords will have less incentive to work with tenants to ensure buildings are in good repair, and every incentive to force you out by whatever means possible. It will be up to tenants to prove that the landlord's activities (refusal to do repairs, lack of hot water, excessive noice) constitute "harassment".

  • Vacancy decontrol hits some of the most vulnerable tenants - seniors, the poor, the disabled, students and the unemployed seeking new work.

  • The rent registry must remain - it is essential in protecting tenants against discrimination s it prevents arbitrary rent charges.

  • Automatic written decisions outlining the reasons surrounding the awarding of above guideline rent increase must be maintained for all tenants.



Maximum Rent Increases

  • The current rent control guildeline is based on inflation (currently .8%) plus a fixed 2% provision for repairs to the building. Therefore, the 1996 guideline is 2.8%. Landlords are allowed to increase rents an additional 3% to cover the cost of major repairs. Landlords must apply for this additional increase to MMAH. Increases above this cap are prohibited for any reason.

Tory Position Paper

  • The current rent control guideline will stay in place (inflation plus 2%) for all tenants that remain in their apartment. Tenants that do not move can expect a guideline in the neighbourhood of 3% next year.

  • The Tories have raised the additional maximum 3% repair increase to 4% (for a possible rent incrase next year in the neighbourhood of 7%). Landlords can try to negotiate this increase with tenants or they can apply to the new Dispute Tribunal for approval.

  • The government will also now allow increases over and above this maximum in the case of "extraordinary operaing costs" such as property tax hikes or hydro rate increases. This effectively gives tenants no assurance of their rent increase for next year.

  • Maximum rents for apartments now renting for less that the approved rent control guideline will be frozen at current levels. Landlords will still be able to raise rents up to that maximum approved level. Once a new tenant moves into that unit, the unit will not be covered by rent controls and the maximum rent level will no longer apply.

Concerns Raised in the Hearings

  • This system leaves tenants with possible annual rent increase of 7-9% and with no assurance of a maximum rent cap.

  • Will landlords and tenants be better served by this tribunal?

  • The current one increase per year based on inflation (including a 2% maintenance component) must be retained.

  • Increases above guideline for capital expenditures must be capped at 3%.

  • Criteria for "acceptable" capital expenditures must be maintained. Capital expenditures should be restricted to necessary repairs and not cosmetic repairs such as fridges and stoves.

  • Landlords should be accountable for the 2% capital expenditure allowance in the guideline before they can apply for above-guideline increases in capital expenditures.

  • There still should be no increase above the guideline awarded for increases in operating costs (utilities & taxes). These costs should be included in the calculation of the annual guideline increase.

  • It should still be legislated that any decreases in operating costs, expecially any reduction in property taxes, MUST be passed through to the tenants.

  • The "costs no longer borne" clause in the current legislation must be retained, otherwise tenants end up paying for capital costs forever.

  • "voluntary" payments by the tenant for the landlord for capital repairs must be prohibited otherwise landlords will start charging tenants for repairs required under property standards by-laws. Tenants may also be "bullied" into paying for unnecessary repairs just so the rent can be jacked up.



Maintenance and Repairs

  • Currently. landlords are only permitted to charge an additional increase of 3% per year to cover the cost of repairs. Landlords must apply to a Rent Officer for this increase.

Tory Position Paper

  • Landlords will be permitted to charge an additinal increase of 4% per year to cover the cost of repairs. Landlords will have to apply to the Dispute Tribunal for approval of the rent increase.

  • Powers used by MMAH staff uner the Planning Act (e.g. inspection of buildings, responding to tenant complaints regarding building maintenance) will now be offloaded to municipalities under the Municipal Act. Municipal building inspectors will now be responsible for responding to tenant complaints. MMAH staff will attempt to help train municipal staff, but the government will not provide any funding to municipalities to cover the cost of this additional responsibility. Municipalities will be given the opportunity of recovering these additional costs through administrative charges to landlords and possibly tenants.

  • Maximum fines for landlords ignoring repair orders will be increased to $25,000 for a first offence and $50,000 for subsequent violations. Building inspectors will have new powers to obtain search warrants to make sure repairs are done.

  • Municipal property standards officers will have new enforcement powers to charge or fine landlords on the spot for sub-standard buildings.

Concerns Raised in the Hearings

  • Municipalities have already had far too many provincial responsibilities downloaded on them by the Tories, without any additional resources to administer or implement them. Tenants should be concerned that they will be forced to pay user fees to municipalities to cover the cost of building maintenance complaint investigations.

  • Tenants should ask their elected municipal officials about their municipality's plans to implement these changes force upon them by the Tories.

  • Need a property standard system controlled provincially by legislation. There should be a minimum standard of maintenance for all municipalities and townships. This is not to say that a municipaliy could not have a standard higher than the provincial minimum.

  • A system for rent abatements due to lack of maintenance must be maintained and should remain retroactive through the entire period the problem has existed for the tenant.

  • The province must ensure that municipaliteis are given adequate fiscal resources to enforce property standard by-laws.

  • OPRI's (orders prohibiting rent increase) HAVE TO BE MAINTAINED.

  • Landlords should still not be notified in advance of a tenant-initiated inspection.



Freedom to Convert Rental Units into Condominiums and Demolish Existing Apartments

  • Under the Rental Housing Protection Act, local governments are currently able to prevent the demolition or conversion of affordable rental housing to other uses (e.g. condominiums).

Tory Position Paper

  • Landlords will have complete freedom to convert rental units to condos and to demolish existing apartment stock. The paper mentions that tenants will require some sort of protection of tenure, but this could be as little as first right of refusal to purchase or a very limited (one year) extended tenure. This means the choices may be limited to either buying your unit or moving out.

Concerns Raised in the Hearings

  • This could result in landlord intimidation.

  • The Tories maintain that their package will result in the creation of more apartment spaces - but it is clear from the witnesses (both tenants and landlords) and from the research that not only will this plan create no new rental spaces, but by giving landlords the complete freedom to convert apartments to condominiums or demolish them altogether, the Harris plan will lower the amount of rental units on the market.

  • The government assumes that urban centres with high vacancy rates do not have an affordable housing problem. In many of these same centres (e.g. Thunder Bay) there are long waiting lists of people seeking affordable non-profit and public housing.

  • The requirement of municipal approval for conversion of rented residential premises must be retained.



Evictions

  • At present, landlords must apply to court when a tenant opposes an eviction notice and tenants must be given their day in court before an eviction can take place.

Tory Position Paper

  • A landlord can now apply for an eviction through a quasi-judicial tribunal. No other element of the eviction process (grounds, timing) is changed. The Tories expect that the tribunal will be able to deal with the issue faster than the courts.

Concerns Raised in the Hearings

  • The process of evicting bad tenants needs to be improved - but will this change actually help landlord and tenants who are forced to live with problem tenants?

  • Will tenants be able to bring legal representation with them to these tribunals? Can they afford this?

  • Landlords may have an even more difficult time evicting tenants now - bad tenants may claim that they are only being evicted in order for the landlord to raise the rent above the guideline level.

  • Sublet and assignment rights must still be held distinct - terms of existing legislation should be left intact.

  • Landlords should continue to be required to pay 6% interest on last month rent deposits annually.

  • All other deposits must remain illegal.

  • Privacy rights must be strictly enforced - "spectific reasons" needs to be defined by legislation.



Coverage for Care Homes

  • At present, rent controls also apply to care homes (e.g. private retirement homes).

Tory Position Paper

  • Most care homes will still be covered by rent controls, provided that the tenant never leaves their unit. Temporary accomodation facilities (rehabilitation centres) will be made exempt from the new legislation.

Concerns Raised in the Hearings

  • The Tories need to clairify exactly how broad this care homes exemption will be.

  • Seniors on fixed incomes need rent control protection most of all - vacancy decontrol will impact every senior moving into a care facility.

  • Security of tenure for care home tenants must be retained.

  • Any meals or services which care home operators require tenants to pay for as a condition of their tenancy should be subject to rent control.

  • All care home tenancies should continue to be governed by a written tenancy agreement clearly identifying the cost of accommodation and the amount and kind of services that the tenant must pay for.

  • The tenants consent, or that of a substitute decision maker, must be required before any transfer can take place.

  • The only reason for a fast track eviciton procedure should be to protect the rights of other vulnerable tenants from someone who is disruptive or threatening. Alternative accommodation must be arranged for in advance.



Lack of Affordable Rental Supply

  • Developers have been saying that to increase the rental stock, not only will they require reform to rent control, they will also require a reduction in federal (GST), provincial (capital tax), and local (property taxes and development levies) taxes.

Tory Position Paper

  • The Tories claim that the measures in the paper will increase private rental accommodation construction.

Concerns Raised in the Hearings

  • Mr. Leach has no research to prove this. Landlords were not increasing rental stock in 1974 even though there were no rent controls or GST.

  • Landlord groups told the committee that the changes in the Tory paper alone are not enough incentive to build any new rental stock.

  • The government's key research paper, the Lampert Study, also stated that gutting rent controls alone will not lead to the construction of any new units, particularly affordable units.



New Dispute Tribunal

  • At present, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing staff deal with landlord-tenant dispuets and applications for rent increases. The tenant eviction process must proceed through the courts.

Tory Position Paper

  • A new tirbunal will be created to deal with all landlord and tenant disputes, including evictions. Very few details on how the tribunal will operate are offered.

Concerns Raised by Tenants

  • Who will be appointed to these bodies? Will it be a way for government to flow patronage positions?

  • Will this result in cost savings for government and time savings for tenants and landlords?

  • What is the definition of what constitutes harassment?

  • Delivery system must be independent of government.

  • An open and well estabilished appointment process must be instituted for the selection of qualified and impartial adjudicators.

  • Decisions should be based on law only.

  • Voluntary mediation should form part of the despute resolution system.

  • Adequate notice of a hearing must be provided as well as detail of the claim.

  • There should be appeals to the Divisional Court.

  • Cases concerning eviction or rent increases should be stayed pending outcome of an appeal.

  • Filing and other fees should be minimal.



VIII.       FAILURE OF TORY GOVERNMENT TO EXAMINE CREATIVE OPTIONS FOR REFORMING AND IMPROVING RENT CONTROL, NOT SCRAPING IT

Based on what was presented to the committee during its hearings, it is clear that the government should withdraw its "New Directions" proposal and sit down with tenant and landlords to discuss viable alternatives that improve Ontario's rent control system, not scrap it.

As a fundamental first step, the government must recognize that any reform of rent control must be part of a comprehensive government policy towards the rental accommodation market and, in particular, part of an overall government policy on affordable housing. This plan must involve policies that effectively deal with non-profit and public housing and the important role they play in providing affordable housing. The government must also deal with the important issues of property tax reform and unfair taxation on new rental construction.

In the area of rent control reform, Liberals believe that there are a number of alternatives that should be considered, including:

  • The creation of a capital reserve fund to ensure that rent money is spent on building maintenance and repairs.

  • The allocation of adequate resources to municipalities to allow them to carry out their existing housing standard enforcement responsibilities.

  • Improvements to the existing landlord an tenant court system.

  • Improved education for landlord and tenants on their rights and obligations.


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