Where Toronto’s housing crisis is concerned, most of the positive news from 2018 came from ground-level organizing. Tenants are fighting back. In Parkdale, rent strikes have been staged to oppose above-guideline rent increases and tenant associations are being formed to curb renovictions.
But the city’s vacancy rate is at a near historic low (0.5 per cent), while the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto is $2,360. What does that look like? In two words, unsustainable and dangerous.
Thousands are on waiting lists for subsidized housing, refugees and students are living in shelters, and bidding wars for rental units are jacking up rents even more.
Landlords are taking advantage using illegal means, like claiming that their own family will be moving into the unit and instead re-listing the properties to charge a much higher rent. Or evicting tenants under the guise of needing to complete major renovations.
Affordability has reached crisis levels, and it’s only going to get worse under Doug Ford.
The Ford government has scrapped rent control for new rental buildings in a throwback move that recalls when Mike Harris gutted them in 1997, claiming it will spur developers to build more affordable units – despite evidence to the contrary.
Meanwhile inclusionary zoning, a provincial planning tool that municipalities can use to force developers to create a percentage of affordable units in new buildings, is also in jeopardy.
Earlier this month, John Tory announced that the city is looking at 11 city-owned sites that could be turned into new rentals, lower-cost condominiums and mixed-income apartment complexes.
Although this would add a variety of different housing stock, which is much needed, it’s unclear how affordable these proposed units will be.
After all, the city’s official definition of “affordable” – which is 80 per cent of market rent – isn’t actually affordable for the most vulnerable right now, including those who live on fixed incomes, new immigrants and students.
Although the city and province is culpable for the current housing crisis, tenants are realizing its only through grassroots organizing that they can protect their rights.