Ontario NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo will be introducing a private members bill this week proposing licensing of landlords and tightening of rent controls. At an impromptu press conference today, Ms Di Novo was accompanied by the government funded Advocacy Center for Tenants Ontario (ACTO). ACTO, which is funded through Legal Aid Ontario, represents tenants on the fringes and advocates for issues more related to poverty than residential tenancies, yet they pretend to be a stakeholder for the mainstream tenant movement. Also at the press conference was a representative of ACORN (a US-based tenant organization).
The advocates claimed that the bill would provide a solution to the problem of bedbugs. They said that landlords would not be able to rent vacant units if there were outstanding work orders. Now I don't know what the rent control idea is, but I assume it's about returning to full rent control as opposed to vacancy decontrol which the Conservatives brought in with the Tenant Protection Act in 1998. That means the lawful rent on a unit is controlled even as new tenants move in, taking away any semblance of free market in which the parties can pick and chose a rental that suits their needs and budget. If a landlord kept the rents low over the years for a long-term elderly tenant, the landlord would be stuck with that same rent after the tenant moved out or passed on.
From the proposals put forward by groups such as ACTO, FMTA, their NDP sponsors etc., it appears that the end game is to eliminate for-profit private rentals completely, forcing the government to replace them with non-profit (subsidized) housing. Now goodness knows we need non-profit housing and I have many clients who run non-profits. But certainly there is a role for private landlords offering a quality product and providing choice. Perhaps Ms. Di Novo feels otherwise!
Now private members bills typically are not passed by the government. However, these left wing ideas will be out there in the papers in the next few days and may sway minds of those who don't understand housing. It's up to all of us to speak out against this bill with thoughtful arguments.