Rent Control – Pro Essay, Research Paper
The Detrimental Effects in Changing the Rent Control Act
In a just society, the ruling authority must decide what is right when
allocating wealth to its individual citizens. The same ruling authority does this by
intervening with the inner workings of a marketplace to uphold its fundamental values
and ideals. The aim of government intervention is to create a just society that will
reflect the people?s values. Governing bodies do this by establishing laws that
fairness or ?equity?. The Ontario government passed the Rent Control Act in 1975.
law levels the playing field between landlords and tenants. New units are exempt
controls for their first five years after which the controls are put into place. The
controls put a ceiling on annual rent increases. Under current law, a landlord may
increase a tenants? rent by 2% plus inflation.1 As with all other markets, the housing
market is based on supply and demand. If the nature of the market were allowed to
its course, then the price of housing would become unaffordable for most citizens. An
unfair situation would be created where power and money would be
appropriated to land owners. Rent control laws were established by previous
to protect society and its people from inflated and uncontrollable housing costs. The
Harris government now wants to repeal these laws. On June 25 the Minister of
Al Leach, released a policy paper outlining the changes that are to be made to
rent laws. Conservative legislators plan to pass the proposed ?Tenant Protection Act?
in the fall. The omnibus legislation will rescind the Rent Control Act, the Landlord
and Tenant Act, the Rental Housing Protection Act, Residents? Rights Act, the Land
Statute Amendment Act, the Vital Services Act.2 The most objectionable change
the act to lift controls off vacant units. The 3.2 million renters in Ontario are very
concerned about the changes.3 The housing ministry will accept written submissions
from the public until August 30. Public hearings are also planned in hope that they
ease the transition. However, most people are indignant towards the idea. Changing
rent control laws would be detrimental to society as they threaten citizens? positive
right to affordable housing, harm their mobility rights and increase the gap between
rich and the poor.
The proposed ?Tenant Protection Act? assaults peoples? right to affordable
housing. If people are to adhere to a basic standard of living, then the cost of their
homes must be affordable. But what exactly is affordable? The Ministry of Housing
released a report stating that 70,000 Toronto house holds (20% of the city?s
do not have affordable housing. The report explains that a tenants’ housing is
unaffordable if they are paying more than a quarter of their gross income in rent. This
is an alarming thought since some renters are paying 70-80% of their gross income in
rent.4 The problem of high housing costs is combated by rent control to allow people
a minimum quality of life. Housing like medical care is not normal good or service. It
is a basic need. Renters need to buy more than landlords need to sell. If the renter
does not get a place to live, he is on the street. If the landlord has no tenant, he
just has an empty apartment. In short, there is a mismatch of power in the rental
market. The laws of supply and demand are unfairly applied against the buyer. Thus
controls came into being precisely because the market does not work. Lifting controls
would hurt people?s ability to bear the cost of housing without serious harm. The
government justifies this action by arguing that something must be done about
apartment shortage. Because apartments are offered below their market value, they
sold faster new ones can be created. Toronto has a vacancy rate of .8% with only
new apartment units built in Metro last year.5 Currently, two thirds of renters move
once in five years. Since controls are lifted off vacant apartments, the government
believes that after a few years, most apartments will be decontrolled and the supply
problem would be solved. In truth, areas that are already decontrolled are not seeing
new apartments. Instead of building moderately priced, modest apartments,
find it far more profitable to build condominiums. Clearly, condos do not fall under
the category of affordable housing. Yet, the province is making it easier to convert
apartments into these extravagant units. Under the proposal, if there is a conversion,
the warning time a tenant must receive would be cut from 240 days to 120. Even if
developers wanted to build new apartments, the government?s rationale is still flawed.
When the controls are lifted off vacants, tenants will not be able to afford to move.
Moving means and end to rent control. In other words, the mobility assumption that
make is wrong. With the price of vacants skyrocketing, and a notice that a tenant’s
apartment is being turned into a condo, where is a not-so-well-off tenant to go?
Luckily, previous governments have established non-profit housing. Also called co-op
housing, the Ontario Housing Corporation manages 1200 of these publicly funded
projects across Ontario. On these sites 84,000 units were sold to the low end of the
housing market. They are provided to ensure affordable housing. Someone who
afford a condominium can easily take up residence in a moderately priced co-op
apartment. This would solve any claims to affordable housing rights that people
be scared of losing under the proposal. Unfortunately, soon after taking office, the
Conservatives decided that they would no longer support the building of non-profit
housing, and withdrew funding for 70% of planned non-profit projects. The total
reduction in funding to the O.H.C. was $82 million. This was done in light of a waiting
list of 40,000 people. Funding needs to be increased, not reduced. 1228 units need to
be built each year just to keep up with the exigency.6 How are positive rights to
affordable housing supposed to be upheld after such a drastic cut? The government
explains that they expect the private sector to support the low end of the housing
market through the continuance of the Shelter Allowance Program. This encourages
landlords to build and maintain affordable housing. In 1994 the government funding
the program reached its peak at $2.4 billion. This favoritism of landlords was fiercely
protested by the Coalition to Save Tenants? Rights. Why was the responsibility of
affordable housing cut from non-profit community volunteers, and not landlords?
The C.S.T.R. had this to say:
?To develop housing for the lower end of the housing market if rent controls are lifted,
the landlord lobby, FRPO, presents a list of demands: lower property taxes on rental
properties, no GST on new building, no development charges for sewers, roads and
Home owners will pick up the slack for property tax and development charge
and everyone for the GST. These too, are a form of government subsidies. Yet, FRPO
persuaded Mike Harris that the government shouldn’t be in the housing business
the subsidies are too high. Ah, we get it! Subsidies are okay if they’re being shoveled
into the pockets of private landlords. But they are a bad thing if they’re going to
non-profit community groups that build affordable housing. Money spent on co-ops is
used far more efficiently than the shelter allowances wasted on landlords.?9
In addition to subsidies, landlords say they will not build affordable housing unless
taxes are lifted from the building process. The end result is that the proposed
?Tenants Protection Act? would cause no new affordable housing to be built. Only
rents, which will result in more evictions. An altogether vicious circle. As more and
more sources of affordable housing are disappearing, basement apartments may
only ones left. It is not known for certain, but estimates number the amount of
basement apartments in metro to be in six figures. Many people rely on basement
apartments for a home simply because of the affordability of the unit. To their comfort
Bill 120 was passed as the Residence Rights Act in 1994, legalizing basement
Bill 120 also afforded protections to tenants by strengthening eviction laws in their
favor. To their dismay, Bill 20 was passed as the Land-use Planning and Protection
on November 20, 1995. Bill 20 gives municipalities the choice of weather or not to
the building of any new basement apartments. Bill 20 which was passed by the
Conservatives, is only a foreshadowing of what is to come. The proposed ?Tenant
Act? declares all basement apartments illegal again. The gains made for peoples?
positive right to affordable housing would be lost. Declaring a potential supply of
small apartments illegal would worsen an already bad shortage. This shortage of
apartments will not be solved by lifting rent controls. This would only result in the
further development of lucrative condominiums. With a reduction to public housing
the of barring of basement apartments, affordable housing in Ontario is falling left,
right and center. The shortage is now worse. Affordable housing is not only vital, but
is a persons? right to be able afford himself shelter. All of society is hurt when its
citizens can not allow for basic living expenses.
By ending affordable housing, the repeals to Ontario?s rent laws would harm its
populace by infringing on their mobility rights. The changes would compromise
mobility by sentencing them to their apartments. With controls lifted off vacants,
tenants will not be able to afford to move. Conversely, landlords who wish their unit
to be decontrolled will have to force tenants out. This will create ?class war? of
landlord-tenant relations. Because landlords have the upper hand in the housing
tenant rights would be jeopardized. This mismatch of power would result in landlords
harassing tenants, withholding repairs, and eventually, evictions. Landlords have had
history of strong-arming tenants to get their wishes. With no rent control on vacants,
they will declare an open season on tenants. Tenants would have little recourse but
take their complaints directly to the Ministry of Housing, and file a lawsuit to be
settled in the courts. If the proposed ?Tenant Protection Act? falls through, the sheer
volume of harassment complaints are expected to be so numerous, that the lawsuits
put an unbearable strain on the legal system. In the anticipation of the overload, the
Ministry of Housing has established a complaint line. The 24 hour message system
brought up to screen less important tenant problems and to declog the Tenant
Office.7 Leach also plans to create a quasi-judicial tribunal. Complaints would be
diverted from courts to the tribunal for everything from increases to evictions. Both
parties would be given a short time to present evidence and make their case. Shortly
after, a judgment would be made. Since there are no appeals, both parties would be
expected to abide by the decision. If one party complains that the other has breached
the ruling, the tribunal would send out their ?anti-harassment unit? to investigate and
slap fines. Drive-thru justice? One-stop shopping? This ?Band-Aid? solution to the
problem of tenant harassment will in no way protect tenants. Striping their legal right
to have a say in a real court is only done to keep tenants out of the Minister?s hair.
When asked about the anticipated problem of tenant complaints Al Leach was quoted
saying: ?We intend to keep them out of the courts as much as we can.?8 Tenants?
would be rushed through to keep the line moving. Although efficient, this does not do
justice to tenants concerns. Even if tenants were to receive a fair decision that would
ask the landlord to stop the harassment, it is not enforceable. The small, underfunded
?anti-harassment unit? would not be able to deter the amount of harassment
Their threat to enforce the rule of law is an empty one. A joke. The government told
the C.S.T.R. that it will protect tenants by doubling the fines for harassment. Fines
could be quadrupled and it still would not matter because they are flawed in their
application. C.S.T.R. states:
?Given that the Tories are slashing workplace health and safety inspections, food
inspectors and virtually every other kind of enforcement of public interest laws you
think of, what makes you believe their promise to enforce ?anti-harassment by
Anti-harassment laws under the proposed ?Tenant Protection Act? are unenforceable
ineffective due to budget constraints. Harassment protection afforded to tenants would
become nil and an open season would be declared on them. The first thing that
would do to pressure tenants to move would be to deprive them of repairs. This sort of
behavior is frowned upon by the government. Under the proposed changes, they shall
their displeasure by doubling the repair fines. Nonetheless this change, like the
harassment fines, is an empty threat. Sixty percent of Ontario apartments are greater
than 25 years old.11 They either need extensive repairs or they are so deteriorated,
that they are ready to be replaced by condominiums. This fact plays into the
pressure strategy nicely. If a tenant does not want to move, he has to stand and watch
as his home degrades all around him. When the old furnace breaks down, he will
When the sink stops working, he will have no water. It would only be a matter of time
before the tenant realizes that his struggle is useless. He will have to move.
Landlords have gone as far as charging tenants an extra fee of $180 per month for
?unauthorized appliances? such as washers, dryers, and air conditioners.12 If the
landlord does not want to see his unit degrade for the sake of higher rent, there are
other options available to him. He can scare the tenant out of his home. Landlords
infamous for using strongmen for this purpose. Washed out boxers or thugs looking to
make a quick buck are a landlord?s best friend. Tenants are told to move, or else. If
they do not get the message the first time, then the strongmen would reinforce their
point. What is worse than no repairs, or the threats of an enforcer? Eviction. If a
tenant does not leave because of the slumlike conditions or intimidation, he will be
flat out thrown out. Landlords do not like to resorting to this, because of its expense
and the time needed for the legal process. Evictions can take up to four months. But
if the changes are passed, eviction may prove to be a landlord’s pastime. The
Rights Act was passed by the N.D.P. government in 1994. This made tenants far
difficult to evict. Under the proposal, eviction laws under the Residence Rights Act
would be repealed. Landlords would be given much more discretion in evictions. The
time it takes to evict would be shortened and there would be no appeal process.
Changing rent control laws would not only harm peoples? mobility rights in that they
will not be able to afford to move, but insult would be added to injury in that
landlords would not let them stay. Where would they go?
They would end up on the streets. Repealing rent control would make the rich
richer, and the poor, poorer. If controls are lifted, the inherent mismatch of power in
the housing market would cause a shift in the wealth between landlords and tenants.
Owners and developers would become richer from the higher rent their land yields,
those who can not foot the increases would be deprived of a home. The forces in the
market would cause tenants to be caught up in an ?affordability gap?. This is because
the cost of building housing has increased at a higher rate than average tenant
for the last ten years.13 The poor would be especially hit hard. From 1982-1994,
monthly incomes of tenants living in projects actually fell, from $717 to $661.
Eliminating rent control is supposed to raise vacancy rates. However, vacancy rates
not deal with affordability. Since 85% of renters fall on the bottom third of income
earners, empty apartments would come from those who could no longer afford
the ?Tenant Protection Act? is to pass, rent supplements should be worked into the
proposal. Supplements would help tenants fill in the affordability gap created by
lifting controls. This is not the case under the proposal. Lifting controls would
seriously harm many people. Toronto?s city planning and development department
the affordability gap for the increased usage of food banks. They say that if controls
are lifted, people will not have enough money for food. This will result in
unmanageable lines at the food bank.15 Alternative housing is another housing
that is going to come under attack by the changes. Also called special-care housing,
this program is the only thing keeping 47,000 people across Ontario off the streets.16
Alternative housing puts up single mothers, seniors, the disabled and people who
be otherwise homeless without it. The Residence Rights Act protects special-care
tenants from eviction. The proposal would repeal the R.R.A. to give landlords of care
homes the power to enter homes without notice to perform bed checks. They would
able to flash evict abusive tenants who fail to pay rent or damage property. This
worries many because these are the people who are at most risk for homelessness.
Special-care tenants are not the only ones in danger. Because of this decades? poor
economy, the number of metro residents that were evicted doubled from
combined effect of lifting controls and more powerful eviction laws can only worsen
situation. Those who are forced out of their homes to get their controls lifted and
cannot afford a decontrolled unit, will slip through the cracks and onto the streets.
There would be more evictees with a greater proportion of these people becoming
Ontario?s homeless. Such was the case for Irwin Anderson. Irwin Anderson was one
three street people who froze to death last winter. The inquest involved linked the
deaths to a lack of affordable housing in Toronto. In particular, Anderson had been
evicted for non-payment of two months rent. But he had previously paid rent in his
apartment in the subsidized complex for five years. An arrangement for repayment
have been worked out. Instead, he was evicted. The frightening truth is that this
could happen to anyone, even the well educated. Mirsalah-Aldin Kompani, another of
three who froze last winter had an engineering degree from the University of
At this point, tenants would not be shouting about their right to affordable housing,
they would be fighting for their basic right to a home. Their only refuge from the
cold would be confinement to a crowded hostel. These may be no better than the
themselves. The Toronto Coalition Against Homelessness states that people loathe
places and that affordable housing should be the central focus since hostels only offer
a superficial solution to the real problem.18 Consequently, because of the
affordability gap, cuts to alternative/public housing and flash evictions, repealing
rent laws would split Ontario?s middle class into two, putting half up in condominiums,
while incarcerating the others in hostels. Since the strength of society depends on its
middle class and its ability to keep people off the streets, the proposal should be
For these reasons, the proposed ?Tenant Protection Act? damages society as it
attacks Ontarians? appanage to affordable housing, restricts their movability and
the middle class. The change would take away positive intervention and let the nature
of the markets decide a redistribution of wealth. Many would live on the land owned
an elite few. This is not equitable so government intervention in the markets must
remain. When the majority of peoples? happiness and values are protected against
advantageous elite, then that is a sign that a society is just.
1 Ministry of Housing, The 1996 Rent Control Guideline, p.1.
2 Toronto Star, Critics fear pending bill will ?strip tenant rights?, June 26, 1996,
4 Toronto Star, High rents leaving no money for food, March 31, 1996, p.A6.
5 Toronto Star, Province plans to protect tenants, June 25, 1996, p.A1.
6 Toronto Star, Ontario prepares to scrap rents controls, September 9, 1995, p.A3.
7 Toronto Star, Tenants get special line to snitch on a landlord, June 24, 1996, p.A7.
8 Toronto Star, Rent controls not scrapped, Leach says, June 7, 1996, p.A10.
9 The Tenant Bulletin, C.S.T.R. fights rent control reform, July 26, 1996, p.1.
11 Toronto Star, Province plans to protect tenants, June 25, 1996, p.A1.
12 Toronto Star, Tenants get special line to snitch on a landlord, June 24, 1996, p.A7.
13 D. Edwin and R.Vogt, Basic Economics, p.56.
14 Toronto Star, High rents leaving no money for food, March 31, 1996, p.A6.
16 Toronto Star, New tenant law could hurt most vulnerable, May 28, 1994, p.L6.
17 Toronto Star, Anguish of Eviction Day, July 7,1996, p.A1.
18 Toronto Sun, Aid homeless, Harris told, June 25, 1996, p.15.
Dolan, Edwin G., and Roy Vogt. Basic Economics. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and
Internet, Usenet. Changes to rent control. Tor.general. July 2, 1996.
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Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 1992.
Ontario, Ministry of Housing. Rent Control and Hearings. Pamphlet. December, 1993.
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Rent Control and Tenants. August, 1994
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?6 agencies serving homeless allowed standing at inquest?. June 27,
?A free rental-housing market is not a level playing field?. June 27,
?Rent control proposals are attacked?. June 26, 1996.
?Critics fear pending bill will ?strip tenant rights? ?. June 26, 1996.
?Halfway measures in rent controls?. June 26, 1996.
?Province plans to protect tenants?. June 25, 1996.
?Tenants get special line to snitch on a landlord?. June 24, 1996.
?Helpers for homeless seek role at inquest into freezing deaths?. June 19, 1996.
?Rent controls not scrapped, Leach says?. June 7, 1996.
?Minister of ?non-housing? rethinks position?. June 2, 1996.
?High rents leaving no money for food?. March 31, 1996
?Ontario prepares to scrap rents controls?. September 9, 1995.
?New tenant law could hurt most vulnerable?. May 28, 1994.
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?Aid homeless, Harris told?. June 25, 1996.