Tenants of a midtown apartment building said they are worried they will face big rent increases as the building’s owner responds to an “extraordinary” increase in municipal property taxes.
Tenants in the 65-unit Homestead Land Holdings building at 154 The Parkway received letters about two weeks ago informing them that the company had applied to the Landlord and Tenant Board for permission to increase the rent.
According to the letter, the company applied to the board in mid-January and tenants have until mid-June to submit their comments.
The letter did not include details about how much rent may increase.
“That is the scary part,” said tenant Sally Jensen, who has lived in the building for almost 28 years.
Jensen, 73, was one of the few tenants who would talk on the record about the planned rent increase.
When contacted by the Whig-Standard, Homestead declined to comment about the rent increase application.
Jensen acknowledged that the building has some of the lowest rents in the city and said she pays about $675 a month for rent and heat.
But she said she is worried how it will affect many people in the building who are living paycheque to paycheque.
“We’ve got such a beautiful mix of people in this building,” Jensen said. “We’ve got people from Egypt, and from India and from Syria. We’ve got gay and straight, black and white. I love the people in this building. If I can afford it a little more than they can, I’m not going to sit back and say, ‘Oh well, to hell with it.’
“I’m tired of them pushing my friends around. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Jensen said she plans to contact legal aid for advice.
The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing set the rent increase guideline for 2019 at 1.8 per cent.
Any increase above that amount requires approval by the Landlord and Tenant Board.
The proposed rent hike is the result of a higher-than-average increase in value for the property in the 2016 property reassessment by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.
“They had an assessment increase that was more than double the average for the property class,” said Jeff Walker, manager of the city’s taxation and revenue department.
The city tries to eliminate unexpected spikes in assessment values by adjusting the tax ratio for different kinds of properties. By doing that, the city prevents landlords from having to pass on big rent increases related to tax increases to tenants
But in the case of 154 The Parkway, Walker said, the assessment increase was too big for the city to compensate.
“It is basically their assessment increased more than twice the average assessment,” he said. “We were able to remove, through council’s decision to lower the tax ratio, the average reassessment increase, but not when it is two, two-and-a-half times the average.”