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Skyrocketing rent statistics paint a damning picture of Ontario's lack of real Tenant Protection

PRESS RELEASE, December 2, 2003, 1:00 p..m.

The full report New Ontario rental housing statistics may be found here.

Skyrocketing rents over the past 10 years indicate the bleak situation Ontario tenants are living in. While a rent freeze can stop the increasing damage it can not correct the situation, only a rent rollback can undo the devestation to families and communities.

Today, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, (CMHC,) released its annual rental market survey, showing the reported changes in average rents and vacancy rates over the past year.

Analyzing statistics from today's CMHC report, and those from the previous 9 years, show the long-term trends not evident in a comparison with just the previous year.

Ontario city rent increases 1993 to 2003 (1 bedroom apartments)
(Percentage of the whole Ontario rental market, based upon 1995 figures, in brackets)

Toronto     (58% of market):   40.99%
Ottawa     (11% of market):    29.95%
Hamilton    (8% of market):    29.71%
London       (7% of market):   18.62%
Kitchener   (5% of market):   30.51%
Consumer Price Index:         21.20%

The reported figures from CMHC do not fully reflect the impacts on people, as there are no separate average rents provided for the vacant units and occupied apartments, though we would hope they were compiled. The differences between rents actually being paid, and what landlords are trying to get for vacant units, creates anomalies in the statistics. With very dubious claims of lower rents in Toronto, this is likely only a result of landlords lowering the outrageous rents they have been trying to charge on unoccupied units and does not reflect any decrease in the rents actual tenants are paying for occupied apartments. The differences in rents actually being paid versus rents landlords are asking for apartments they are trying to rent out has also led to rents in other cities reported rents being lower than what is actually being paid by sitting tenants.

Questions must also be asked as to the accuracy of the survey, when the methodology used is that CMHC enumerators who introduce themselves as representatives of the federal government agency, ask landlords or building superintendents to volunteer their rents and vacancies. It appears likely that some landlords would understate their real rents which would dramatically affect the accuracy of the CMHC report. Whether this probable understatement of rents by landlords is out of fear that the numbers could be reported to Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, or in an attempt to skew the statistics in an attempt to skew government policy making based upon these numbers, there is no way to know. But the effect of CMHC's, lack of any verification of the numbers provided to them, ends up to CMHC rubber stamping their seal of approval on the landlords' numbers, which landlords' have a vested interest in skewing.

Landlords have been in the press recently praising themselves for lowering rents. When long-term tenants (those who first movied into their homes before June 17, 1998, the day the Tenant Protection Act came into effect,) move out, under the law's Vacancy Decontrol provisions, landlords may then charge anything they want to the new tenants. Landlords had typically been increasing the rents on these vacant units from $100 a month on smaller apartments in smaller markets to over $300 a month on larger units in Toronto. With the higher vacancy rates in these hard to afford apartments, landlords have recently been lessening the amounts of these increases or providing one-shot deals such as giving $150 off the first month's rent. Lessening an increase from $300 to $200 a month, is not a $100 decrease in the rent as some landlords have been claiming. If a retail store were to make such claims, under the laws that control their advertising it would be seen as misrepresentation for which they would be liable to fined for. And the CMHC report because it includes claimed rents for vacant units is particularly vulnerable to this type of manipulation.

Total rent increases over the past 10 years for one-bedroom apartments averaged up to 41% while the total Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 21.1%. The CPI may not be an appropriate comparison as it already includes housing costs, so skyrocketing housing costs result in even higher CPI numbers, but still it clearly shows the out of control rent increases.

Vacancy rates have been increasing and CMHC rationalizes this is a result of people purchasing homes and leaving rental accommodations. While low interest rates are certainly a factor as they state, it is also certain that skyrocketing rents and evictions are too, something CMHC does not mention. More and more young adults are now choosing to remain at home longer because of the ever increasing unaffordability of rental apartments. We are aware of more and more tenants having to "double-up" (or triple-up,) in housing which leads to over-crowding, and possible domestic disputes; These arrangments are prone to collapse. None of these other factors were included by the CMHC report.

Tenants are being economically evicted, losing their housing as they can no longer afford their skyrocketing rents. The CMHC release never addressed the issue as to whether the increase in Toronto's vacancy rate is the result of doubling-up or people losing their homes. We are aware, and presumably CMHC is also aware, of the overflowing numbers of homeless people and families in major metropolitan areas, but this information was not a factor in the CMHC's interpretation of the figures provided by landlords.

For those who want to only look at the numbers, remember that a 5% rent increase for a family that spends 50% of their net income on housing, results in a decrease of 5% in what is left of their income. For a poor family or person, such as a senior on a fixed income, who is spending 75% of their net income on housing (as many are,) the 5% rent increase now results in a 15% decrease in money available for food, clothing, medications (or prescribing fees), telephone service, etc. There are many people who are forced to spend even more than the above percentage of their income on housing.

This has an effect on not just tenants. When people are doing without the necessities to keep a roof over their heads the small businesses in areas where rental housing predominate feel the negative impacts of severely dropping disposable incomes resulting in some businesses having to close their doors.

Remember the numbers you are reading about represent real people and families.

For more information contact:

Robert Levitt
Webmaster, Ontario and Toronto Tenants web site

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