Hundreds of High Park tenants call for more rent control after being notified of 12% increases
Tenants at a building in Toronto's High Park neighbourhood say they are feeling priced out after finding out their rent will increase nearly 12 per cent this year, and are calling for more rent control.
Ben Scott received a notice of rent increase from his landlord at the Livmore High Park building at 55 Quebec Avenue in October 2022. He has been living there since January 2021.
"I thought it was a typo on that form. I was kind of looking at it thinking like is that 1.2 or whatever? No … it's almost 12 per cent that they were trying to increase our rent," Scott said.
Scott, who is a single parent living in a two-bedroom apartment with his son, said the sudden and stark rent jump made him consider moving.
"I had to seriously think about changing where I live... I happened to get another job that afforded me a little bit more, but the gain that I get from that job is essentially just going to cover my rent," he said.
Scott is one of hundreds of residents who have since come together to form a tenant association to fight the steep rental price increases at the new modern building, roughly a block away from High Park.
CBC Toronto reached out to Great Western Life Reality Advisors, which owns the property, but was told the company had nobody available to comment.
Province's rent increase limits don't apply to building
Though specific rent increases vary for each tenant, most who spoke to CBC Toronto said they have been told their rent will increase nearly 12 per cent, which comes up to roughly five times the 2023 provincial rent increase guideline of 2.5 per cent for this specific year, 2023.
The province's rent increase guideline applies to the majority of rental households under the province's Residential Tenancies Act — about 1.4 million of them. It does not apply to vacant units, community housing, long-term care homes or commercial properties.
It also doesn't apply to buildings occupied for the first time after Nov. 15, 2018. The Livmore building, which is less than three years old, is therefore excluded from the guidelines.
Scott said he was later offered a smaller increase of seven per cent, which he took.
"I don't think that's fair... I was basically forced to take that deal or leave, and my son would have to find another school."
Rental market an 'utter disaster,' tenant advocate says
Geordie Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Association, says the situation in Toronto's rental market is an "utter disaster."
"All we're seeing is rampant greed by landlords," Dent said.
Dent, who has spent more than a decade as a watchdog for the rental market in Toronto, said he's heard from tenants across the province who are experiencing similar increases.
"What you see over and over again is a lot of tenants can't pay that, so they end up having to move out," he said.
"A lot of them aren't just moving out once in a five-year period. We're hearing more and more people having to move every year."
Ontario to 'look for more ways' to protect tenants
A spokesperson for Housing Minister Steve Clark said the province has provided "stability and predictability" to most tenants in Ontario by capping the rent increase guideline below inflation at 2.5 per cent for 2023.
"Our government is constantly working to increase housing supply across Ontario while keeping its promise to preserve rent control for existing tenants prior to 2018," said Victoria Podbielski in a statement to CBC Toronto Friday.
"We continue to look for more ways to better protect tenants across Ontario while also making homes more attainable for hardworking Ontarians."
But High Park tenants say they aren't convinced the province will step in and push for more rent control.
Resident Shondra Mings says she fears she may have to move out soon if rental prices continue to go up at this rate. She moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the building in May 2022 and just seven months later, she was told her rent will be going up by 11.5 per cent.
Mings said after negotiating with the company, she was also offered a seven per cent increase.
"I was obligated to take that because I couldn't afford the 12 per cent," she said.
Her apartment which costs $1,950 to rent, will go up to roughly $2,100 starting in May.
"I did my due diligence when I moved in... I knew this wasn't a rent-controlled building. [The] company said they wanted to keep people in the community, they wanted to keep tenants here so the rent increase would be reasonable."
"I've never seen 11 to 12% rent increases in all my years of renting."