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Municipal tenant, renters, housing issues

Is your apartment warm enough?

Municipalities have bylaws setting minimum apartment temperatures the landlord must provide.

For more information read My Apartment Is Too Cold: what is the minimum apartment temperature by-law in my city? or for the comlete document see Ontario Tenants' Most Asked Questions and Their Answers

Mom steaming about having heat turned off Northern Life, Jan 28/04

Public Housing downloaded. Now what are cities doing?

Toronto Housing board asks how to unload its job, Globe and mail, January 14, 2002

Housing agency plans to trim costs, by Kerry Gillespie, Toronto Star, September 5, 2002

Big cuts in works for (Toronto Public) housing corporation, North York Mirror, September 6, 2002

Rail lands housing depends on cash boost Toronto Star April 20/06

Tenants and municipal property taxes

Did you realize that about 20% of your rent goes towards city property taxes? Since it is buried in your rent probably not. Groups such as North Toronto Tenants Network and the High Park Tenants' Associations, have been fighting the unfair tax treatment of tenants for years.

This isn't just an issue in Toronto, but Mississauga, Hamilton and other areas.

Commercial tenants not only get a separate tax bill but pay it directly to the city.

I believe that the provincial government must change the laws so that municipalities must send tax bills to landlords that break down the tax by each apartment and further, that the landlord must include in the lease and in the notice of any rent increase how much of the rent and any increase, are property taxes. After all, in the Tenant Protection Act any above guideline rent increase over tax increases (and also over utilities) are in addition to the up to 4% they can apply for for capital (improvement/repair expense) improvements, and those increases for taxes (and utilies) have no maximum increase per year.

Additionally, vacancy decontrol, where a landlord may charge whatever they want when an apartment unit becomes vacant must end. Under the present law if taxes were cut to make them fair, landlords could pocket the cuts by raising the rents to the new tenants.

For quite some time I have tried to get figures on how much of the property taxes the city collects are for multi-unit residential and for single-family homes, and how many units this represents, for the years 1980, 1990 and 2000. The City of Toronto has refused to provide this information and when I did a Freedom of Information request, instead provided information on mill rates only, to avoid providing the information I really wanted. I want to know how much the city receives in taxes from both types of residents in total, and per housing unit so they can be compared, and also compared for the changes in the amounts over the years. After all, since the property taxes we tenants pay are buried in our rents, it would have been easiest over the years for city councillors to have made us bear the brunt of any increases because we never would have realized who was to blame.

Here are some items that will give you some background on the property tax issue:

Apartment property taxes in Toronto, A letter sent in August of 2004, to Mayor Miller and the City's Property Tax department.

A criticism of John Sewell's views on tenant property taxes, an e-mail letter I sent on the tenant property tax issue, February 8, 2001, to Mayor Lastman and Toronto City Councillors

And here is an interesting article, not just because it highlights the tax issue and the different treatment of tenants and property owners, but because a group that claims to represent all of Toronto's tenants, the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, argued at a City of Toronto hearing against tax cuts for tenants. This is a group has had a homeowner as its Chair for many years now, and 3 home owners, as both Board and Executive Committee members, though it is against the rules of that group's constitution. Councillors Confronted By Great Tax Divide, July 7, 1998, Toronto Star

Additionally that group, that may be influenced by the fact that 98% of its funding, over $400,000 a year, comes from the City of Toronto, a city that is desperate to increase revenue from taxes and other sources. That tenant groups (?) representative stated in a November 29, 2001, Now article, stated that fairer taxes for tenants, "shouldn't come at the expense of higher taxes for homeowners or cuts to city services . . ." Presumably, those "city services" they didn't want cut even if it meant maintaining the discriminatory property taxes against tenants would include the money they receive from the city originating from tenants' property taxes.

Toronto Tenants Get Less But Pay More
Sky-high Tax Rates Are Fueling The Equality Debate. Toronto Star, October 21, 2001, by Kerry Gillespie.
When this article talks about how tenants groups were not willing to get involved in this issue, it is obviously talking about the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations. Janet Lisboa a former president of the High Park Tenants' Association has made public deputations about the unfair city property taxation of rental housing since 1983, Lynn Carleton of North Toronto Tenants' Network has been doing so since 1986 and Paul York of the Greater Toronto Tenants' Association (GTTA) has been discussing this issue since the inception of that group in late 1999.

Fair Taxes For Tenants
Editorial, Toronto Star, October 23, 2001.

And here are a couple extra articles that give a bit more background on the issue if you want to read them:

Unfair Taxes Ripped, Report urges break for tenantsToronto Sun, Sep 9/97

The Worst Time For Debate On Property Tax, Toronto Star, Jun 28/98

Harris Predicts Property Taxes Will Decline, Toronto Star, Jun 4/98

Tenants pay too much tax, Editorial, Ottawa Citizen, Apr 11/02

Fight begins to change tax policy for tenants, Kingston Whig-Standard, Sep 30/02

Tenants' rights advocate fights city hall, CBC Ottawa, Jul 29/03

Don't stick tenants with hefty tax bills, They subsidize homeowners' property taxes, Toronto Star, Nov 8/03

Westboro residents brace for tax hit, Ottawa Sun, Oct. 5/05


The City of Ottawa is lowering tenant property taxes, while they continue to increase in Toronto, plus there is the new Toronto Garbage Levy to be imposed of in 2007, all endorsed by a city-funded tenant group.   Tenant tax break touted, Ottawa Sun, April 18/06

Peterborough exploring steps to create more affordable housing

If you know Peterborough, an unusual feature of that city's downtown is the absence of anything on the second floors' of downtown businesses.

Some of these vacancies are due to the upper floors being uninhabitable and the property owners being unable to afford to renovate them. In my opinion most of these vacant second-floors are due to a concerted effort by Peterborough's Downtown Business Improvment Area association's effort to keep them vacant to worsen Peterborough's housing shortage to force the poor to move away. This is a group that wanted a municipal vagrancy law to jail the homeless.

Due to the efforts of the Peterborough Coalition Against Poverty to expose the plans of that business group there has been a turn around.

The Downtown Business Improvement Area has seen their lobbying efforts backfire and have reversed their positions due to all the bad publicity they were getting. Peterborough Mayor Sylvia Sutherland has outlined a proposal to get all these second-floor units back onto the housing market. For more information read November 22, 2001, Peterborough Examiner, Mayor suggests housing incentive

Housing plan may boost downtown, Peterborough Examiner, January 22, 2002

Is the new Sheppard Subway line impacting on local rents?

The following appeared in the October 4, 2002, North York Mirror:

Letter to the editor:

It appears to me that recently rents in the Fairview Mall area are skyrocketing even more than rents throughout the rest of Toronto.

Could this be because of the imminent opening of the Don Mills subway station on the new Sheppard subway line in a few weeks?

I have concerns that local landlords may be pressuring sitting tenants out of their apartments so they can charge greatly increased rents.

When this addition to the TTC was planned, did the city ever consider the impacts on the tenants and the unearned windfall this new service could generate for landlords?

- Robert Levitt

Ontario Muncipal Board can not run roughshod over city planning

Ruling protects rentals, city says; Court upholds right to limit developers, by Kerry Gillespie, Toronto Star, February 22, 2002

Saving affordable flats, Editorial, Toronto Star, February 25, 2002

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