Toronto mayor is fighting to legalize rooming houses

Written by D, a and i, v, , e, r, i, d, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

John Tory has opposed legalizing rooming houses for decades, and his latest fight at Toronto city council has been an eye-opener for some of his political allies.

Rooming houses are temporary rental units that can offer low-cost housing to people making up to about $44,000.

When the Toronto city council on Wednesday voted to have city staff study legalizing temporary lodgings across the city, it prompted an instant reaction.

“John Tory’s decision to ignore the interests of the people of Toronto and begin discussions around the legalization of rooming houses is deeply disappointing,” NDP MPP Peter Tabuns, who represents Toronto-Danforth, said in a statement Wednesday.

Now, Tabuns said, the mayor should do the right thing and step down from the mayor’s chair.

Tory said Tuesday that he was frustrated that he’s had to repeatedly battle elements of the city’s progressive community who are not on board with a bylaw that would bring the city into compliance with the Canada Residential Tenancies Act.

“I do understand it was not a unanimous vote,” Tory said. “As members of council you’ve got to vote what you believe and certainly what you’re for and also what you’re against.”

Rethinking the life cycle of housing

The Canadian government has banned Toronto from regulating rooming houses since 2000.

“Renting hotels and rooms in hotels is illegal unless you’re a transient business — which there are very few in Toronto,” Tory said Tuesday.

Housing advocates have pushed back against that characterization, saying the problem is the landlords who put up a large group of affordable rental units to drive out the competition.

“We are the one city in the country with no bylaw to regulate rooming houses,” Matt Kubel, chief executive officer of the Toronto and Region Homebuilders’ Association, said in a statement Wednesday.

“By legalizing this market segment, the city will create a two-tier rent system for those who are able to find a housing solution in the city that allows their families to enjoy what Toronto has to offer.”

As he’s pushed for a rethink on the decades-old law, Tory has pushed a new “housing of the future” strategy to prepare Toronto for future living conditions.

It’s a long shot. Toronto, like much of Canada, is in the middle of a heated debate over a national housing strategy that would require significant new spending from the federal government.

But in his new push for reform, Tory said rooming houses are one of the biggest housing sources for families who need affordable housing.

“We’ve just been making rooming houses legal year after year after year and we don’t realize how profound the housing crisis has become,” Tory said Tuesday.

Just as complex a question as why Tory is so actively working against the interests of Toronto’s progressive community

Leave a Comment