Hous­ing short­age giv­ing res­i­dents fits

Ten­ants strug­gle to com­pete in an un­for­giv­ing rental mar­ket

Bayview Post - - News -

Tessa Wil­liams, a 24-year-old free­lance il­lus­tra­tor from Toronto, went apart­ment hunt­ing in the Yonge Street and Eglin­ton Av­enue area ear­lier this year. She was will­ing to pay as much as $2,000 a month, but de­spite her de­cent credit score, let­ter of rec­om­men­da­tion and first and last months’ rent, the large pool of ap­pli­cants com­pet­ing for a onebed­room unit in the area made it im­pos­si­ble to lock a place down.

“I had enough money for an apart­ment, but I don’t think my ap­pli­ca­tion was com­pet­i­tive enough,” said Wil­liams.

She was turned down on mul­ti­ple of­fers and was forced to set­tle on an apart­ment in the Duf­ferin Street and Dun­das Street West area.

Wil­liams is not alone in her frus­tra­tion. A re­port pre­sented at the City of Toronto’s Ten­ant Is­sues Com­mit­tee in Fe­bru­ary states the av­er­age monthly rent of all units in Toronto has climbed to $1,829, based on anal­y­sis of avail­able rental list­ings in Septem­ber 2017. The va­cancy rate for pur­pose-built rentals was shown to be down to one per cent, the low­est it has been in 16 years.

Chris Spoke, co-founder of Hous­ing Mat­ters — a “yes in my back­yard” (YIMBY) prode­vel­op­ment group rep­re­sent­ing ten­ants across the city — ar­gued Toronto needs more so­cial hous­ing as well as af­ford­able mar­ket hous­ing for those tra­di­tion­ally con­sid­ered mid­dle-class. He sug­gested sup­port­ing pur­pose-built rentals as part of the so­lu­tion.

“We have a lot of new peo­ple mov­ing to the city, and we’re not build­ing enough new stock to keep up with it. The bar­gain­ing power shifts to­tally in favour of land­lords who are then able to hike rents. As a ten­ant, you take what you can get be­cause there is a lineup of peo­ple who will take it if you don’t,” said Spoke.

Ac­cord­ing to both Wil­liams and Spoke, of­fer­ing more than first and last months’ rent or at­tend­ing open houses for rental units with a year’s worth of post-dated cheques and let­ter of em­ploy­ment are com­mon tac­tics ten­ants are tak­ing to get an edge on the com­pe­ti­tion.

As a re­sult of the cur­rent cli­mate, Hous­ing Mat­ters has sup­ported sev­eral con­tro­ver­sial de­vel­op­ment pro­pos­als in mid­town, in­clud­ing the two tow­ers for 18 Brown­low Ave., the four- to five-storey build­ing at 41 Chatsworth Dr. and the 13-storey build­ing at 2908 Yonge St. Spoke also sup­ports the eight-storey build­ing pro­posed for 321 Daven­port Rd., the same de­vel­op­ment Mar­garet At­wood op­posed pub­licly, which in turn branded her a NIMBY (“not in my back­yard”) among crit­ics.

“If these projects [high-end rentals and con­dos] don’t get ap­proved and don’t move for­ward, those peo­ple then start bid­ding on the ex­ist­ing stock of more af­ford­able hous­ing,” he said.

Coun­cil­lor Joe Mi­hevc, of Ward 21, St. Paul’s, ar­gued sup­ply is only part of the prob­lem and is call­ing for more pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tion that in­creases rent con­trol.

“Of course we need more sup­ply out there, but in­creas­ing the sup­ply alone is not the so­lu­tion,”he said.“A good healthy va­cancy rate is three per cent, and af­ter that it’s a ren­ter’s mar­ket not a land­lord’s mar­ket. Once you hit three per cent, de­vel­op­ers stop build­ing rentals [be­cause profit mar­gins de­cline].”

Although the Prov­ince of On­tario’s new in­clu­sion­ary zon­ing plan de­mands up to 10 per cent of units in each condo de­vel­op­ment be sold as af­ford­able hous­ing, a re­port by City of Toronto Plan­ning staff notes the plan “fails to pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate much needed af­ford­able rental hous­ing.”

Linda McCarthy, who sold her home in Lea­side and now rents an apart­ment in Lyt­ton Park, had hoped the in­clu­sion­ary zon­ing plan would of­fer re­lief to renters but ar­gued it doesn’t go far enough.

“That’s a dis­as­ter for us,” she said. “I’m a se­nior cit­i­zen, and I’m on a pen­sion, and it’s go­ing to get to a point where I’m not go­ing to be able to af­ford to stay here any­more.”

City coun­cil agreed with the re­port’s rec­om­men­da­tion and on Feb. 1 re­quested that the prov­ince amend the plan to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate new af­ford­able pur­pose-built rental hous­ing.

“As a ten­ant, you take what you can get be­cause there is a lineup of peo­ple who will take it if you don’t.”

Self-pro­claimed YIMBY Chris Spoke is call­ing for more de­vel­op­ment and pur­pose-built rentals at Yonge and Lawrence

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