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MPP Gilles Bisson Calls for Rent Control: Dec. 8, 2010

The following is an excerpt from a speech given by MPP Gilles Bisson at the Ontario Legislature on Dec. 8, 2010.  MPP Bisson was speaking about rent control during a debate on the government's Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy Act.

"As I said, I’ve had people in my riding who are landlords who didn’t like rent control and saw that as a barrier to their ability to pay the bills, to maintain their own housing stock and make the kind of profit they thought was fair with the investment they were making in their housing stock. Nonetheless, government said, “Listen. We need to balance the need of a person to be able to make money with the need of a person to be able to afford to pay the rent in the first place.” So it was with much chagrin that, back in the Tory days under Mike Harris, I saw rent control scrapped in this province. We’ve moved now to what we call vacancy decontrol. So now, if I’m in an apartment building, as long as I stay in that apartment, my landlord can’t raise my rent more than a certain percentage every year. But the moment that I leave the apartment and vacate it, the landlord then can reset the rent.

Say that he used to charge for a downtown Toronto apartment, one unit‚ÄîI’m probably paying about $1,500 a month, which is quite cheap in downtown Toronto. As I looked at new members being elected to the Parliament three years ago, as they came down here to rent units, they’re paying upwards of $2,000 a month for a rental unit here in downtown Toronto. It goes to show you what’s happened with vacancy decontrol. We’ve gone from paying $1,400 or $1,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment to‚Äîand the minute the person moves out the landlord is able to demand a higher price‚Äîas much as $2,000 or $2,100 a month for that same unit.

Clearly, there are a lot of people out there who can’t afford to pay that kind of money for a housing unit. Imagine being a young couple with a couple of children needing a three-bedroom apartment and how much that costs in the downtown core. I can tell you, if a one-bedroom unit on the corner of Bay and Wellesley Streets is going from $1,900 to $2,100 a month, imagine what you’re paying for a three-bedroom unit in that building or any building in and around the downtown of the city of Toronto.

If you move outside of the downtown core, if you move north of Eglinton or even farther north, to a place called Timmins or Moosonee, rents there can be pretty darned expensive too. You’re looking at rents for a one-bedroom apartment in a community like Timmins‚Äîa decent one‚Äîof about $700 to $800 a month. That is certainly not what you’re paying downtown in Toronto, but still, it’s a fair amount of money for people to pay.

So the question becomes, what has this government done in the seven years they’ve been here on a promise to deal in a progressive way with housing policy in this province? What have they done to address any of the issues on the private side, as far as rent control, and what have they done in order to deal with for not-for-profit housing? I would say very little. We are still under the Mike Harris rent control legislation; that has not been changed significantly. There have been smatterings‚Äîsome dabblings, as they would say‚Äîof attempts to make it look as if something was done but we essentially do not have rent control in this province other than what we call vacancy decontrol.

That is causing a real hardship for people because rents are getting much more expensive with the tighter market. Unfortunately, it needs to be said that prices of rental units are going up to the point that a lot of people can’t afford to pay the kind of rents that are being asked, because there’s such a shortage of stock when it comes to rental units across this province.

Now, there are some places in the province, I’m sure, where rents are reasonable because there is a large vacancy component, but in many places across Ontario that is not the case. I can tell you in the city of Timmins, certainly, rentals are hard to come by, especially quality rentals, and if you do find one, you will pay quite the dollars. Many people can’t afford to pay the kinds of rents that are being asked for."

December 15, 2010

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