Residents Descend On Toronto Mayor’s Office To Protest ‘Full-Blown’ Rooming House Law; Hash Out New Issues

Last month, the Toronto City Council voted against “full-blown” rooming house legislation.

However, the vote to defeat the bill passed with 24 votes. Twenty one votes are needed for an official policy. Eight councillors voted with the winning side.

It was a significant swing for Mayor John Tory, who voted against the legislation.

He called the bill a “major initiative that will make Toronto a safer, more just, more equal and more engaged city,” but was not even able to get a motion to support the idea of legalizing rooming houses across the city to get on the city council agenda.

“My hope is that the site will provide a home for as many people as possible and as well as I can, I’m going to try to not delay the process of bringing this forward as long as I can,” Tory said of the vote result.

But the changes that the new city council is bringing down have led to increased concern. According to figures compiled by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), there are at least 24,000 problematic rental units across the Toronto region and advocates are concerned that those units may be creating a serious social housing crisis.

Housing advocates say they are alarmed that Tory did not directly advocate for a strategy that would address the problem and he has failed to explicitly back any law that would bring forward the legislation.

“His position was pretty much that there’s no need for a law to do this. The consequence of that, that may simply be shutting down a valuable work program,” said Greg Hunt, who helped organize an emergency meeting of housing advocates at Toronto City Hall Wednesday night.

The rooming house issue has divided the city and a group of Toronto residents marched down to the entrance of the mayor’s office last week carrying placards and signs. They chanted slogans and called for answers.

“As mayor of Toronto, you need to do something about this,” resident Gary Jensen told Mr. Tory and the city council.

The mayor offered to meet with the group in the mayor’s office but they denied his request.

For critics of the rooming house law the mayor is doing nothing, or not enough.

“There is another law that we can pass that is the law of landlords which says if a landlord wants to subdivide his property to allow rooming houses to pop up he has to put in a separate property tax for them,” Mr. Tory said, when asked about the lack of support for his bill.

The problem is, so far there’s no cost associated with the city council bill.

Like many other opposition, housing advocates wonder if the mayor wants to bring the issue forward or simply not do anything.

“There are no standards on these units,” Mr. Hunt said. “They’re free to rent out as they wish, as fast as they wish with no regulations so it’s an issue of meeting a demand.”

He wants Mr. Tory to hold a town hall meeting with those outside of City Hall to discuss the issue.

“Toronto is slipping and its falling apart before our eyes,” Mr. Hunt said.

Brent Rathgeber, a Toronto MPP, wants to hold a special spring sitting of the Ontario legislature in the coming months to focus on housing.

“I think our government has a lot of faith in the Marketplace Boards who have been at the centre of so much controversy and failure to provide tenants with the human rights protections which have been sought by the tenants in this case,” he said.

Mr. Rathgeber said that the legislation has upset a lot of people and that he wanted a special session on the topic for this spring.

This story was originally published by Montreal Eye. Read the original article here.

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