TORONTO – Olivia Chow has a bold plan to give the nearly 50% of Torontonians who rent their homes, more power, more security and more affordable options.
Olivia Chow announces Secure Affordable Homes plan for renters
“I’ve been a renter. I grew up in the towers in St. James Town and I’ve rented units in houses. Everyone deserves a secure home. But right now, people are stuck worrying about rent increases, evictions, and poor living conditions.” said Chow. “To the renters of Toronto – as your new mayor I will act, I will make life easier for you, I have your back.”
According to Researchers at the Canadian Housing Evidence Collaborative, Toronto is losing affordable housing fourteen times faster than it’s building it. Chow is committed to building hundreds of thousands more units of housing across the city, while at the same time acting now to save the affordable housing we have today before it's gone forever.
“This is urgent. We must protect affordable housing now, and we must build more.” said Chow. “My plan will give renters the power they need to keep their homes, fight back against gouging, fix problems that have been neglected, and help families facing renovictions stay in their homes.”
Chow’s plan to save affordable housing and give renters more power:
- Create the Secure Affordable Homes Fund – a historic $100 million annual investment to stop renovictions by helping purchase, repair and transfer affordable rental apartment buildings to not-for-profit, community, and Indigenous housing providers (i.e. land trusts) so they can be preserved as affordable rental homes.
- Secure affordable homes – For renters facing eviction, Chow will double the reach of Toronto’s Rent Bank and nearly triple the reach of the Eviction Prevention in the Community program for those with complex needs. She will also invest in strengthening RentSafeTO to make sure tenants live with dignity and scale up the Tenant Support Program to help tenants organize to fight evictions and above guideline rent increases.
- Establish the Toronto Renters Action Committee – Olivia is committed to elevating and incorporating the voice of renters into how the City works giving them a seat at the table on City decisions. The Committee will work on anti-renoviction bylaws, advocating for real rent control, reviewing existing policies and programs related to renters, and holding the City accountable to renters.
Chow’s plan to protect renters is the first piece of her progressive and ambitious plan to make housing more affordable. Other pieces of her housing plan will touch on issues relating to zoning, affordable housing, housing supply and more.
Backgrounder: Standing up for Renters
Nearly half of Torontonians rent their home.
Weak provincial tenancy laws and skyrocketing rental market prices mean tenants are feeling stuck. Stuck in units that don’t meet their needs. Stuck trying to find an affordable apartment that doesn’t eat up all their pay. Stuck worrying they’ll be renovicted.
Research shows that Toronto is losing affordable housing fourteen times faster than we are building it. Over the last ten years we have lost on average over 7,000 private market affordable rental units while only creating on average 500 new affordable units.
That’s why Olivia is committed to building hundreds of thousands more units of housing across the city and at the same time acting fast to save the affordable housing we have today before it's gone forever.
This is urgent. Olivia Chow wants renters to know she has their back. She has a plan to stand up for renters.
1) Secure Affordable Homes Fund
It’s a renter’s worst nightmare, you're being renovicted and you can’t find an apartment below $3,000 a month.
Fortunately, with Olivia Chow as your new mayor the City of Toronto can step in to help.
Olivia will create the Secure Affordable Homes Fund – a powerful program to help stop renovictions and save affordable housing, established with a historic annual investment of $100 million that will keep thousands of homes affordable and secure.
The Secure Affordable Homes Fund is a significant expansion of the successful but very underfunded Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition program. It will help move at-risk affordable rental units off the private market and to not-for-profit, community land trusts, and Indigenous housing providers. And it will help to improve the conditions of the homes.
The Secure Affordable Homes Fund is a cost effective approach to securing Toronto’s affordable housing supply. For $100 million per year, we will secure homes for approximately 1,000 people each year by moving 667 units in dozens of rental buildings into community ownership and guaranteeing affordability.
The Secure Affordable Homes Fund is to be used in conjunction with additional funding sources, including those available from other orders of government, to pay for the entire cost of purchasing and repairing units.
To further strengthen this program, Olivia will explore securing the right of refusal for the City of Toronto – the pre-emptive right for the city to acquire properties that are already listed for sale in order to secure them as affordable units. This is not the same as expropriation since it only applies to properties already on the market.
The City of Montreal has this right – it has 60 days to match an offer from a buyer for any properties on the market. Montreal is actively using this power to both save and build affordable rental housing. Olivia Chow will advocate for Toronto to have this tool so that we can use it to address our affordable rental housing shortage.
2) Investments to Keep Renters Housed
As a renter, you deserve a home that’s affordable, safe and well-maintained and when times are tough, you should be able to rely on the City for help staying in your home.
Olivia will keep people housed and prevent homelessness with a $12 Million investment that will:
- Double the reach of Toronto’s Rent Bank to help 5,500 people each year and expand eligibility requirements to assist more tenants. The Rent Bank gives modest grants to people at risk of eviction to help them stay in their home. This helps thousands of people stay housed and prevents homelessness.
- Nearly tripling the reach of the Eviction Prevention in the Community (EPIC) program to over 3,000 people a year. EPIC helps people facing imminent eviction avoid homelessness by offering case management, mediation with landlords, assistance securing income supports, and more.
- Help give RentSafeTO real teeth by investing in more by-law enforcement officers and staff to support investigations of unsafe conditions, hire more contractors so the city can fix the problems if the landlord has refused, and city staff to better enforce standards on landlords and hold them accountable.
- Scale up the Toronto Tenant Support Program to fight evictions and illegal rent increases, support tenant organizing initiatives, and develop enhanced tenant protection policies.
3) Toronto’s Renters Action Committee
Olivia is committed to elevating and incorporating the voice of renters – nearly half of residents – into City decisions. Renters deserve a seat at the table.
That’s why as mayor Olivia will establish Toronto’s Renters Action Committee composed of renters, housing providers, advocates, councillors and the mayor. The Renters Action Committee will work to improve fairness for renters, protect tenant rights, prevent illegitimate evictions and homelessness, address the affordable rental housing shortage, and improve existing city programs and services for renters
This committee will report to the Planning and Housing Committee and will be a space where renters can finally be heard, put new ideas directly onto the City’s agenda, improve existing city programs and services, and hold the City accountable.
The immediate tasks of the Renters Action Committee with include:
- Developing a strong City of Toronto Anti-Renovictions Bylaw that will leverage the City’s authorities to deter renovictions.
- Work to launch an advocacy campaign to preserve affordability for renters by urging the Ontario government to institute real rent control for all rental units, that’s tied to the unit and not just the tenant.
- Reviewing existing City policies and programs related to renters, and holding the City accountable on its commitments to renters.
How we’ll pay for it
Olivia will use Toronto’s Vacant Home Tax to stand up for renters. The City’s Vacant Home Tax is meant to increase the supply of housing by creating an incentive for owners to ensure their unit is occupied and not sitting empty. Homeowners who choose to keep their properties empty for six months or more (exemptions exist) pay the vacant homes tax and this funding is used to secure affordable housing for all Torontonians.
By increasing the Vacant Homes Tax by two percentage points to 3%, the City can generate millions more. The amount collected by the Vacant Homes Tax is meant to decline each year as the number of vacant homes is reduced because of the tax.
$12 million from the Vacant Homes Tax will be allocated each year to tenant supports: $8 million increase above existing funding for the Toronto Rent Bank; a $3 million increase above existing funding for EPIC; and $1 million increase above existing funding for the Toronto Tenant Support Program.
The remainder of the funding will support the Secure Affordable Homes fund, which will also draw from Toronto’s capital budget.
The 2023 rollout of the Vacant Home Tax created confusion and challenges for many homeowners in Toronto, particularly those who do not speak English. As Mayor, Olivia will develop a new implementation strategy, created in partnership with seniors, people who speak English as a second language, and public education facilitators. The goal will be to provide materials in additional languages, better educate Torontonians about the tax, provide an information hotline and options for people to file non-electronically. Additional administrative costs are factored into the costing.