Ten­ants rally to li­cense land­lords

Coun­cil closes door on pro­posed pilot project but will look at other city’s ideas

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN mvan­don­gen@thes­pec.com 905-526-3241 | @Mat­tatthes­pec

Dozens of ten­ants and sup­port­ers ral­lied at City Hall Tues­day to call for li­cens­ing of Hamil­ton land­lords — only to see a pro­posed pilot project put off for more study.

Rally co-or­ga­nizer and apart­ment ten­ant Mike Wood said he be­lieves all land­lords should be li­censed, but added the groups’ fo­cus is on larger build­ings “be­cause they rep­re­sent hun­dreds of peo­ple in need of help.”

“There are a lot of build­ings out there with a lot of prob­lems,” said Wood, who de­scribed be­com­ing sick from the use of “un­safe chem­i­cals” to treat bed bugs in a for­mer apart­ment.

Wood said he has tried ne­go­ti­at­ing the “con­fus­ing” land­lord ten­ant tri­bunal sys­tem to solve var­i­ous hous­ing prob­lems in the past, but be­lieves tougher city reg­u­la­tion would be of more help to peo­ple.

“If you pay your rent, you de­serve to live in safety and dig­nity,” he said.

Some rally par­tic­i­pants called for rad­i­cal ac­tion, in­clud­ing form­ing a city-wide ten­ants union or or­ga­niz­ing rental strikes.

But Wood urged mem­bers of the city’s rental hous­ing sub­com­mit­tee — which in­clude coun­cil­lors, land­lords and other cit­i­zens — to adopt a new rental li­cens­ing regime re­cently ap­proved in Toronto.

Af­ter the rally, the com­mit­tee con­sid­ered a staff rec­om­men­da­tion to study the fea­si­bil­ity of a pilot pro­gram to li­cense some land­lords in Wards 1 and 8, which have higher num­bers of homes di­vided into rental units of­ten tar­geted at stu­dents.

But many com­mit­tee mem­bers, par­tic­u­larly land­lords, balked at the idea of for­mal li­cens­ing and the as­so­ci­ated ex­tra costs — which they ar­gue would be down­loaded to ten­ants who can ill af­ford to pay.

The com­mit­tee even­tu­ally agreed to en­dorse a heav­ily re­worded rec­om­men­da­tion to coun­cil that doesn’t spec­ify a li­cens­ing pilot project.

In­stead, it asks coun­cil to hire a staffer to study the fea­si­bil­ity of a va­ri­ety of reg­u­la­tion and en­force­ment op­tions for rental hous­ing.

Ward 8 Coun. Terry White­head, who chairs the sub­com­mit­tee, said he didn’t want to “waste the pa­per” needed for a vol­un­tary registry, call­ing such an idea tooth­less.

But he gar­nered agree­ment from the com­mit­tee to form a work­ing group to visit other cities for a “fact-find­ing” ef­fort on li­cens­ing regimes.

He also sug­gested both city staff and the work­ing group could take a closer look at Toronto’s new li­cens­ing bylaw for large build­ings, ar­gu­ing the reg­u­la­tory ef­fort pro­vides wel­come “trans­parency and pre­dictabil­ity” for both ten­ants and land­lords.

Hamil­ton has pre­vi­ously stud­ied the idea of rental hous­ing li­cens­ing.

It shelved a com­pre­hen­sive pro­posal in 2013 that would have reg­u­lated rental build­ings with six or fewer units.

That de­ci­sion trig­gered the for­ma­tion of the cur­rent sub­com­mit­tee.

It has largely spun its wheels in try­ing to find al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tions to li­cens­ing.

Some of the mem­bers ex­pressed frus­tra­tion over the de­lays Tues­day.

“We don’t seem to be any closer yet to pro­vid­ing im­prove­ments to renters,” said cit­i­zen mem­ber Steve Calver­ley.

“We’ve got to get on with this, folks.”

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Dozens at­tended a ten­ant rally held by ACORN out­side Hamil­ton City Hall Tues­day dur­ing the noon hour.

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