Renoviction Motion Receives Unanimous Support From Housing Committee

Councillor Ariel Troster, an outspoken figure on Ottawa City Council and a Housing and Community Services Committee member, is a steadfast advocate for housing policy in the city. In her first term on Council, she is achieving results for the progressive side of the housing debate.

Earlier this month, Troster penned an article in the Ottawa Citizen describing how tenants who have lived in a particular rental unit for years can be evicted for renovations. The newly renovated apartment is then jacked up by one thousand dollars or more and is no longer affordable. Troster claims that these ‘renovictions’ in Ottawa have led to a shocking loss of affordable housing and cited Ottawa Mission staff, who have noted an influx of residents with full-time employment but nowhere to live.

At committee, Troster continued fighting for affordable housing, bringing forward a motion to direct city staff to look at an anti-renoviction by-law.

Several public delegates appeared to speak to the proposed motion. Community Legal Services Ottawa’s Sarah Sproule expressed support, saying that the community’s push for housing support laws has drastically increased. Sproule noted that Troster’s motion would not conflict with any provincial laws currently on the books.

Carleton University Student Association (CUSA) delegate Aidan Kallioinen came to speak “strongly in favour” of Councillor Troster’s proposed by-law. Kallioinen stated that losing “31 affordable units for every new unit created is not sustainable.” The CUSA rep also spoke to a Hamilton By-law, which Troster has been a proponent of, which restricts evictions for the purpose of renovation and increasing rent after that. He noted that international students, in particular, are suffering from renovictions because they “Are unaware of their rights as tenants generally.”

Somerset West Community Health Centre staffer Drew Meerveld stated his support for the motion, stating that 17 percent of the 18,000 clients his organization provides service to are experiencing some level of homelessness. Meerveld pointed out that gentrification is exacerbating homelessness in the city. He asked the committee to support the motion put forward by Councillor Troster.

Real Estate investor Tony Miller spoke to the committee, calling the motion in bad faith. He stated that the city’s definition of renoviction does not fall under N-13 protections and that any notice of eviction could be challenged at a Landlord Tenant Bureau, thus protecting tenants from renoviction.

Councillor Sean Devine asked Miller what the harm would be in seeking a renovation permit before an eviction notice could be given. Miller stated that costs and time were substantive reasons, saying, “It can be onerous going through those processes.” He further stated, “It’s not one thing that makes it difficult for landlords; it’s a compilation of (regulations).” He compared the current process for property owners, especially smaller landlords, to death by a thousand cuts.

Further speaking against the motion was Kayla Andrade, founder of Ontario Landlords Watch, an advocacy group for landlords. Andrade acknowledged the housing crisis but stated that the policy will “not be what we intend it to be.” Andrade said that renovations were usually done to update infrastructure, and tenants have a right to move back in at the rent they were paying before.

Andrade further stated that the landlord-tenant board should be the only place where decisions are made regarding renovations. Under current legislation, the policy states that landlords must hold units for 60 days for the tenant to move back into the property.

Andrade asked city staff to use their time more productively to find a way to inform tenants in the city of their rights. She said the policy is “putting the cart before the horse” and stated the law would negatively impact the current housing supply.

Councillor Troster fired back, asking how Andrade would solve the loss of 31 units for every unit built. Andrade responded that not all of these unit losses were from renoviction and that preventing landlords from removing three people from a multi-unit address to make a unit that could hold ten people would significantly impact the city’s housing stock.

Despite the wide range of political views on the committee, Troster’s motion passed unanimously, meaning that city staff have been given direction to explore options to prevent renovictions in Ottawa.

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