Coronavirus: Mayor John Tory urges landlords to help renters

The city has announced new financial measures to help Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) tenants whose income has been impacted by COVID-19.

Tenants who have rent-geared-to-income (RGI) – around 90 per cent of TCHC tenants – will have their rents will be recalculated and adjusted, or deferred based on coronavirus-related job losses or layoffs. In most cases, RGI is set at 30 per cent of a household’s total monthly income before taxes.

For tenants who pay market rent, the TCHC will consider case-specific options to assist them, which may include payment deferment plans over the new few months. Market rents are set according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s average rate for Toronto.

The announcement follows a teleconference that Mayor John Tory had with private residential landlords yesterday to discuss the financial difficulties many tenants are currently facing due to unprecedented COVID-19-related job losses.

“A number of companies have detailed policies in place to assist tenants whose income has been diminished by the health crisis,” a statement from the city reads. “But far too many have not communicated anything to reassure anxious tenants who in the ordinary course have rent payments due on the April 1.”

The city does not have the power to direct landlords to defer rent payments, but Tory told landlords to work with tenants who are facing financial uncertainty.

“I urge all landlords across the city to do what they can to help tenants who suddenly find themselves in very different circumstances due to this pandemic,” Tory said in the statement.

The city issued “broad direction” to over 200 social and affordable housing providers, which are responsible for over 33,000 units in the city, to be flexible with tenants during the current crisis.

“It’s great that our mayor did use his voice, platform and influence [to tell] private landlords that they should do the same. It doesn’t hurt,” says Joe Rutherford, who started a petition to freeze rents and is the owner of a local dog walking business.

Doug Ford’s provincial government announced that eviction notices and orders have been temporarily suspended, as well as additional funding through the new COVID-19 Emergency Assistance program, which will be administered through Ontario Works. The funding is available to individuals who do not qualify for the federal government’s proposed worker benefits, and would cover rent, food, medicine, transportation or other necessities.

But a growing number of tenants across the city are demanding rent deferrals or cancellation.

“There is a week remaining before April rent is due. Tenants have zero credible indications that the devastating financial burden staring us in the face is being taken seriously by anyone other than ourselves,” says Bryan Doherty, a member of the grassroots tenants advocacy group Parkdale Organize.

Doherty is also a tenant working with the Keep Your Rent Toronto campaign, which is calling on tenants to not pay rents on April 1. The campaign is urging tenants with financial uncertainty to save their rent money rather than paying their landlord.  

NDP leader Andrea Horwath is calling on the province to send $2,000 Ontario Emergency Income cheques before April 1 to households experiencing unemployment or loss of income.

In a statement, Horwath says “people cannot wait weeks for money to come in, and most couldn’t pay the rent and make ends meet with their income cut in half. We need to help people before rent is due.”

On Wednesday (March 25), Ford’s provincial government will be releasing its fiscal update and stimulus package.


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