Wynne Liberals won't say when expanded rent control coming

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Why this activist says proposed new rental rules are far from 'a done deal'

Why this activist says proposed new rental rules are far from 'a done deal'

Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government are promising to expand rent control measures "soon," but they aren't saying when. 

In the meantime, some landlords are imposing huge snap rent increases on their tenants, quite likely to escape the caps on rent hikes that are on the way.

The Liberals had a chance on Thursday to speed through an NDP bill that could have immediately expanded rent control in Ontario, by removing an exemption that allows unlimited rent hikes in buildings built after 1991. They refused. 

It's got NDP Leader Andrea Horwath doubting the government's commitment to stop rents from skyrocketing.

"This should have been a no-brainer," Horwath said during Question Period on Thursday. "When there is a crisis, the government has to act quickly and there is a crisis in the rental housing market today in Ontario."

"What do they have to say to those people who will see their rents double in the coming days, the coming weeks, while the Liberals drag their feet?"

Housing Minister Chris Ballard told CBC Toronto in March that he will bring in "legislation that expands on the rent controls that are currently in place." But he has declined to commit to any timeline more specific than "in the near future" or "sooner rather than later."

Ballard justified his party's rejection of the NDP's bill by saying his legislation will be broader. 

Expanded rent control will be "a key part of what we are bringing in," Ballard said Thursday. "But we have been studying the whole host of surrounding issues through the Residential Tenancy Act and we'll be moving forward with some pretty significant changes."

Those changes will include addressing leases, how the Landlord and Tenant Board operates, and the rules on rent increases that exceed the provincial limit. 

"I want to bring it forward as a bundle, bring it all together  because the issues that tenants face are more than just rent hikes that are out of control," Ballard told reporters at Queen's Park on Thursday.

The government has been consulting on the rental reforms since June.  

'Extremely urgent matter'

In their statements, Ballard and Wynne keep clearly signalling the end is nigh for the so-called "1991 exception" to rent control.

Currently, Ontario's limits on annual rent increases apply only to tenants living in residential units built before November 1991. There are no limits on the units built after 1991 — which means the bulk of downtown Toronto condominiums.

That allows for shocking rent increases, such as the tenants who recently received notice the rent on their two-bedroom condo near Liberty Village would double from $1,660 a month to $3,320 a month, starting in July.

Wynne called that "not acceptable" earlier this week and said she considers action on rent control "an extremely urgent matter."

The argument for the post-1991 exemption was that it would encourage the building of new rental units, boost supply in the rental market and therefore keep rents in check. But Wynne said that argument "does not actually hold water". 

The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom condo apartment in Toronto hit $1,776 at the end of 2016, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.