**Toronto Star: Tenants forced to pick food or shelter

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Fri, 08 Oct 1999 17:44:30 -0400


Toronto Star   -   October 8, 1999

Tenants forced to pick food or shelter: MPP

Rents said to be rising under law

By Tracy Huffman Toronto Star

Changes to rent control mean some Toronto residents must choose between paying
rent and buying groceries, says Liberal MPP Gerard Kennedy.

``For some it's even worse,'' he said in an interview. ``The rent increases are
leaving people with an inability to feed themselves. There's no question - it's
not an exaggeration - some of these people will be homeless over the wintertime
because they just can't do it.''

In his riding of High Park-Parkdale, Kennedy said 3,000 units, housing 11,000
people, are affected by the law.

Changes in the rent control law, which took effect in June, 1998, have allowed
some landlords to raise rent by as much as 50 per cent and Kennedy fears the
streets will see more homeless people this winter.

In what he calls a loophole in the Tenant Protection Act, the system now allows
rents that have been frozen for years pending outstanding repairs to rise
retroactively once the repairs have been done.

For example, if a landlord does repairs that have been piling up for 10 years,
tenants could receive 10 years worth of rent increases all at once. The
landlord must only prove that the building has been repaired.

For one senior citizen who lives on Triller Ave., in the Queen St.
W.-Roncesvalles Ave. area, a recent 15 per cent rent hike is making it
difficult for her to make ends meet.

``When you get your old age pension and you pay $804 for accommodation and $200
for food, there's nothing left,'' said the 77-year-old woman, who did not want
to be identified.

About three months ago, the senior's monthly rent was $697. The extra $107 is a
strain on her bank account, she said.

Moving from her home of 30 years is not an option, she said, adding she has
epilepsy.

During its first term in office, Ontario's Tory government overhauled
landlord-tenant rules. Landlords can now charge whatever the market will bear
for vacant units.

Annual increases for existing tenants are capped at 3 per cent, but landlords
can apply for an additional 4 per cent if they've made improvements.

``It's not just affecting the poor areas,'' said Toronto Councillor David
Miller (High Park). ``It's spread into the middle-class areas, too.''

Along with high rents, the low vacancy rate makes it hard to find a place to
live, he said.