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Archive for the ‘Affordable rental housing’ Category

Many high-rise apartment buildings around the GTA are currently undergoing major renovations and repairs of balconies. Most balconies tend to be made of metal with concrete slabs and are subject to wear and tear and rusting. Landlords and property owners deem these renovations and repairs are necessary to maintain the infrastructure and revitalize the appearance of the buildings. Hence these renovations are deemed ‘capital expenditure work’ under the Residential Tenancies Act.

Refer to: http://www.sjto.gov.on.ca/ltb-december-19-2016-new-approach-applications-rent-increase-guideline/

Given that the Above Guideline Increase regulations of the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) deem renovation of balconies as ‘capital expenditure work’, the landlord has rights to renovate their property. The landlord will incur substantial costs from these renovations and the upshot is that the landlord can apply for an Above Guideline Increase and pass these costs on to their tenants. Are those balcony renovations necessary, essential or cosmetic?

Although elegant and attractive balconies improve the overall appearance of the building there are some downsides to the balcony renovation project:

  • Tenants have to endure excessive noise and disruption as workers dismantle the existing balcony railings. It is a noisy, dusty and disruptive process, therefore a great inconvenience for tenants, especially those who have night jobs as well as families with young children. Further, curtains and drapes on windows facing the balcony must be closed during the day for months at a time, to ensure privacy when workers pass by on scaffolding.
  • Balconies are barricaded and access to certain locations of their building is limited. Of course, the safety of tenants during the renovation work is a priority. Yet that lack of access to the balcony, including removal of window air conditioners during the hot summer months, certainly interferes with the tenants’ enjoyment of their unit. This can be seen as a ‘loss of service’ and tenants may be able to file an application for an abatement of rent at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
  • Renovating balconies is a major construction project that can take a much longer time to complete as predicted as the work can be prolonged well beyond the targeted completion date. Tenants can be inconvenienced for an extended period of time.
  • As part of the preparation for the balcony renovations tenants are instructed to remove any items stored on their balcony. Lockers are no longer made available in many high-rise buildings so tenants tend to store valued or bulky items on their balcony. Tenants are not always told that any items not removed are permanently ‘disposed of’ by the workers which is a lack of clear communication by the landlord.  Have those ‘disposed’ items been dumped in the garbage or have been set aside by someone who view those items as having value? Since there is no recourse to recover those missing items removed from balconies it would benefit tenants if landlords make arrangements/agreements with the workers on how to dispose of items, i.e. leave those items in a designated area for tenants to retrieve them.
  • Tenants in older buildings have complained that there are dealing with an infestation (or migration) of cockroaches and other pests to their unit.

Despite many inconveniences, the most important and troubling concern of tenants is what the Above Guideline Increase will be after the renovations have been completed

In recent years there has been a crisis of affordable rental housing due to low vacancy rate. It has mostly to do with ‘supply and demand’. Developers are more focussed on building condos as the condo market is thriving. That has diminished the availability of a much needed supply of affordable rental housing and also contributed to a very low vacancy rate in rental housing. The outcome has been huge increases in rental costs for tenants. Renovating apartment buildings and being able to claim those costs as ‘capital expenditures’ is of significant financial benefit to landlords as those costs are covered by the Above Guideline Increase regulations. The question remains ….. Are those balcony renovations necessary, essential or cosmetic?

Tenants are encouraged to become more informed about the Above Guideline Increase rules outlined by the Landlord and Tenant Board. Moreover, it could be in the best interest of tenants to get organized and engage in activism to address attempts by landlords to inflate rents as a result of balcony renovations.

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NOTE – Refer to these links for rules and regulation of the Above Guideline increases outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act:

Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c. 17:
https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/06r17

July 1, 2019 e-Laws currency date
https://www.ontario.ca/laws/about-e-laws#ccl

In the absence of tenant associations tenants should check out the Federation of Metro Tenants Association (FMTA) organization.  FMTA has produced a Guide to Renovations publication that contains extensive information on regulations related to renovations.

Refer to this link for details:
Federation of Metro Tenants Association (FMTA) document https://torontotenants.org/sites/torontotenants.org/files/publications/Guide_to_Renovations.pdf

 

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G. W. Kassa, Guest contributor

One of the biggest tasks facing the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is providing enough affordable rental housing to accommodate the needs of its growing population. We all know food, clothing, and shelter are the necessities for our survival. However, obtaining and maintaining these needs, and juggling between them continues for many renters in the GTA. This is especially relevant given the current economic climate and the tremendous need for rental housing from an increasing population.

An important part of this discussion concerns families who earn incomes above the low-income guidelines, yet close to considered middle or median income. The inability to find affordable rental housing has become the new reality for this group with the rising costs in the rental market and without the wage increases. Hence many renters resort to sharing rental units with several others in need of affordable housing which resulted in heavily overcrowded rental units. Also, this rental housing crisis has been exacerbated by the lack of TCHC subsidized housing which was further compounded by unheeded need for massive repairs and renovations of TCHC rental buildings.

Given the current economic environment of a bubbling real estate market, prices of housing costs are being artificially inflated. Construction companies/developers are less likely or willing to take a contract to build lower-priced housing. To entice and encourage developers, the municipal government has indicated a willingness to provide incentives by offering lands in the form of a lease and waiving property taxes. As a result there has been more emphasis on constructing condos in recent years to satisfy the demand of foreign buyers who make purchases as an investment rather than a home. That is another contributor to the high cost of renting as there is great demand but tight supply.

At the beginning of this year, the Toronto City Council approved a plan to build forty thousand affordable rental units over the next twelve years. The plan provided financial incentives for private developers to construct buildings with these housing components on specific sites provided by the City.  In the first phase of this plan, ten thousand residential units are expected to be constructed, with ‘one-third’ defined as affordable rental housing. The remainder of the units will be market rate rentals or condominiums.  This plan is a step in the right direction, however it doesn’t meet the demands for reasonable rentals for those unable to afford high rents.

Defined affordable rental housing should be increased to ‘one-half’ instead of the ‘one-third’ requirement goal. Furthermore, since the first phase plan includes sites close to subway lines, most or all these units should fall under the lower-priced criteria. That would be a major step in meeting this economical supply housing challenge. An additional benefit will be reduced travel times for workers to get to their place of employment.

There is still hope if we continue to engage with Toronto City Council and push for the changes that were approved

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NOTE – Refer to these links for more detailed information on the housing crisis:

Toronto council approves plan to build up to 3,700 affordable rental units on City-owned lands
https://globalnews.ca/news/4904971/housing-toronto-council-meeting/

Mayor John Tory unveils 3-point plan for building affordable housing
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/john-tory-affordable-housing-promise-1.4876659

and

DOCUMENTARY – PUSH – YOU CAN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE
(An investigation about how global finance is fuelling the housing crisis)

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/129924971/push-you-cant-live-here-anymore

 

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