Report calls on council to ask province for help protecting tenants, prohibiting renovictions

·3 min read
A sign outside of an apartment block advertising vacancies. Ottawa's planning and community and protective services committees are set to receive a report on tools to prevent renovictions on June 16.  (David Horemans/CBC - image credit)
A sign outside of an apartment block advertising vacancies. Ottawa's planning and community and protective services committees are set to receive a report on tools to prevent renovictions on June 16. (David Horemans/CBC - image credit)

A new report asks for Ottawa's mayor to write to the province requesting legislative changes to protect tenants and help prevent renovictions.

The possible changes to the Residential Tenancies Act and review of tools to prohibit renovictions will be considered during a joint meeting of the community and protective services and planning committees on June 16.

The report also calls for city staff to look into developing a bylaw aimed at maintaining affordable housing by barring the demolition of six or more residential units without a permit and a plan to replace them, noting "every unit counts."

But, depending on who you ask, it's either unnecessary or doesn't go far enough.

This is really hitting low-income tenants hard. — Norma-Jean Quibell, ACORN

The recommendations in the report are a good thing, said Norma-Jean Quibell, co-chair of the Ottawa West Nepean chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), but they "pass the buck" when the city should do more.

"We're a little displeased," said Quibell.

"We've been calling for solutions for a while. We're kind of disappointed in this extra step that doesn't feel necessary."

Quibell also questioned whether there will be any followup from the province, adding the Ford government has been "kind of weak" when it comes to affordable housing.

Renovictions and demovictions (when someone is evicted so a property can be demolished) have been the "number one issue" for ACORN members since 2015, according to Quibell.

"This is really hitting low-income tenants hard."

Renovictions a 'made-up term,' says landlord

Gabby Horan, a member of the Ottawa Region Landlords Association, did not agree.

Speaking for herself as a local landlord, she said tenants are already adequately protected under the act and the steps called for in the report aren't necessary.

"Renovictions, for us, is a made-up term," Horan said, adding evicting someone requires landlords to go to the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB) and there's a list of regulations governing renovations.

Horan said her company, Cityview Rental Services, specializes in older buildings, including some that have stood for 100 years.

"You better believe we need renovations every once in a while just to keep in with the code or property standards," she said, before describing the term "renoviction" as a contradiction.

If a tenant feels an eviction isn't happening in good faith they can always appeal to the LTB, Horan added.

"It's so carefully regulated that to just throw somebody out, you can't do it," she said. "End of story."

ACORN says tenants don't know rights

Quibell said while the Residential Tenancy Act does offer protections, not everyone knows about them.

ACORN wants the city to be proactive around education so low-income tenants, seniors and newcomers to Canada know their rights, she said.

Laura Glowacki/CBC
Laura Glowacki/CBC

The organization plans to speak before the committee on the 16th. It's also pushing for a tenant defence fund and an anti-renoviction bylaw that would see landlords offer temporary accommodation or rent top-ups for residents displaced during work in their unit.

The city report recommends writing to Ontario's minister of municipal affairs and housing, specifically mentioning situations where a landlord completes renovations and then replaces the tenants who used to live there with those who pay more.

It follows council direction from November 2020 asking staff to come up with a report outlining all the municipal tools available to block renovictions.

A legal case referenced in the report shows an outright ban on all renovications, including legal ones, would be "frustrating" the act, meaning it isn't within the municipality's authority, according to staff. However, a bylaw that works with the existing provincial law could be possible.

Speaking with the province to see if they'd consider changes to the act will reveal what options the city has, the report said, including "exploring" compensation requirements for tenants forced to relocate or a cap on how long landlords have to finish renovations.

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