Letters: The only tenant protections are in the title; What's taking so long to reopen municipal facilities?

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The only tenant protections are in the title

On June 4, the Honourable Steve Clark, MPP for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes and minister of municipal affairs and housing, in this space expounded on the merits of Bill 184. The Tories have dubbed it the “Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act.”

I would counter that this bill would be better called the “Faster Eviction Act.” Its marquis but by no means only feature is that it will accelerate evictions by allowing landlords to change the locks on their property the moment a tenant misses a payment on an arrears agreement.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis, but it is also an economic crisis. Passing legislation that will lead to increased evictions during the crisis is despicable. Just last week we were faced with headlines that Ontario has lost over a million jobs since the pandemic began. And while Premier Ford announced a moratorium on evictions, he has provided no direct help for renters (or homeowners for that matter) and by extension small landlords who also need help.

If tenants can’t pay their rent, then small landlords can’t pay their bills, either. We are hearing from many of them that don’t know how much longer they can continue without support from the provincial government. This will hurt the community that counts on this as part of our housing supply. The minister would be better advised to design and implement a support system for both parties.

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Without this, when the state of emergency is lifted and the moratorium ends, many tenants will be deeply indebted to their landlords with limited means to dig themselves out of the hole. Small landlords whose retirement plan is a rental property may be unable to carry those costs and may have to sell in a depressed market. This bill is not what is needed at this time.

Bill 184 will also have a lasting impact on social housing in Ontario. If the bill passes, municipalities will no longer be required to provide a set number of units. Instead, they will be required to fulfil a yet-to-be-determined, prescribed service level. It also gives developers another avenue to avoid providing affordable housing in communities that desperately need it.

The bill also undermines the ability of the process for resolving disputes. For instance, while it increases the fines for delinquent landlords, it weakens the mechanisms to enforce it. It prevents tenants from withholding rent if a landlord is refusing to address aspects of a property in need of repair. It adds an enormous caseload, debt collection, to the already overburdened and understaffed Landlord Tenant Board.

The province’s caseload for social services outnumbers rent-geared-to-income units in Ontario by more than three to one. It has been a generation since the province has invested in affordable housing. Bill 184 may make big developers a little happier and temporarily keep municipal housing departments in the black; it will not solve the housing crisis that we are living, that we see on our streets and in our parks every day.


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Ian Arthur

MPP for Kingston and the Islands

What’s taking so long?

For a city that requested Premier Ford to loosen the restrictions of opening services due to COVID-19, it seems the City of Kingston is dragging its feet opening recreational facilities. The province announced on May 5 that marinas could begin to prepare their facilities for the season. On May 15, it was announced that marinas would be open for business under social distancing rules the next day, May 16. At this point, it appeared that the city had not started to prepare the city marinas and when private marinas opened to the public, the City of Kingston did not open its marinas for an additional two weeks.

On Thursday, June 10, the Ontario government announced that splash pads, beaches and other specified recreational venues would be able to open on Saturday, June 13, again with social distancing rules in place. Later on June 10, the City of Kingston sent out an email to Kingston email accounts that the splash pads, Breakwater Park and Gord Edgar Downie Pier would be open by Canada Day, two and a half weeks away.

The City of Kingston must have known that “Stage 2 Openings” were approaching, but did not prepare for this in advance. This seems contrary to what Mayor Paterson was proposing in Kingston’s request to open our region due to our successful control of COVID-19. People need these venues open in order for stress relief, relaxation and enjoying some freedom, and I hope they will under “social distancing” rules.

George Giles