Rooming houses, still without legal status in Toronto

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Rooming houses, still without legal status in Toronto

In Toronto, rooming houses are governed by different rules from one district to another. (Archives)

The release of a City report, which was expected to lead to a decision by City Council on the legal status of rooming houses in Toronto, is postponed.

This is the latest development in the Queen City rooming house saga. Houses and apartments in which rooms are offered for rent individually are legal in some parts of Toronto and illegal in others. Since 2008, City Council and City staff have been exploring ways to get rid of the legal headache.

According to an update presented to the Planning and Housing Committee on Tuesday, a report on how best to regulate multi-tenant housing in Toronto will not be presented until early next year in order to give staff enough time to respond to the series of questions, consultations and studies that the city council requested in October.

Geordie Dent, the chief executive of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations [Toronto Federation of Tenant Associations] says he is losing hope.

Geordie Dent, President of the Toronto Federation of Tenants' Associations. (Archives)

He strongly doubts that the long-awaited report will lead to a decision. All you'll get next year is a bunch of more questions, Dent said.

The only thing missing from the debate on the rooming houses is the political will.

Disability rights advocates say this latest delay is concerning given the city's housing affordability crisis, especially since rooming houses are some of the lowest-cost housing in the city. Toronto and are particularly helpful to marginalized communities such as seniors, low-income people, students and newcomers.

We have been waiting and hoping for a decision for years, said Dania Majid, a lawyer for the Tenants Action Center of Ontario (CATO), a legal clinic.

We are not surprised that the decision has been postponed yet again, but we are truly disappointed.

Mayor John Tory says the issue is politically complicated and that it requires considerable work to fix.

We need to do these things as quickly as possible, but it is necessary to do them with the confidence of city residents, Mr. Tory said at a press conference last Thursday.

When the issue was last presented to City Council, in 2021, Mr. Tory proposed delaying a vote on the issue, saying the proposal as it stood would not ;didn't have the necessary votes to pass.

I can assure you that housing supply, affordable housing supply, of all kinds, is at the top of everyone's agenda, Mr. Tory said at the time. p>

Illegal housing often comes with concerns about its safety, upkeep and maintenance, says Majid.

In 2021 alone, the city received 988 rooming house complaints and issued 145 notices. A majority of complaints and violations involved illegal multi-tenant homes.

Majid says the Center filed a provincial appeal with the Lands Tribunal of the United States. ;Ontario on the city's multi-tenant regulatory framework, which is still in effect, and that it is ready to move forward if the council does not adopt the changes itself .

If people don't have safe and adequate housing where they live, it has a domino effect throughout our society, and we all pay the price.

Based on information from Vanessa Balintec of CBC

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