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E-BLAST: Protecting Renters in Our Neighbourhoods

A Note on Mask Mandates Ending

Today, I want to take a deep dive into the challenges faced by our renters here in Don Valley North and the many resources available, but first I want to touch on the upcoming changes to mask mandates that many of you have likely heard about. This week, our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, brought a recommendation to Council for the City to harmonize as much as possible with the Provincial guidelines coming into effect on March 21st. This was voted on yesterday so you may have seen it in the news.

I supported this recommendation on the condition that communications be very clear on two points. First, I want everyone to remember that both the Province and the City agree that it is too soon to drop masking rules on public transit. The longest bus rides are the usually the most crowded routes, so masking and caution should continue until further notice. Secondly, no matter what the rules are for any setting, no one should ever be pressured to remove their mask if they want to continue to wear one. We don’t know each other’s medical history so we have no right to judge anyone who chooses to exercise an abundance of caution. More info on these changes will be available below this column. Now, back to our topic for this week.

 

Protecting Renters in Our Neighbourhoods

The pandemic has been hard on all of us, and I know that there have been some particularly tough challenges for renters. Many folks in the community have gotten in touch with my office about problems in their rental building or unit, from neglected repairs to eviction issues. Of course, these issues existed before the pandemic, but the financial strains many have faced throughout COVID have made them worse. On top of that, the pandemic has made it harder for renters to get to know other tenants in their building and deal with these issues together. Making sure our tens of thousands tenants are connected to the supports they need is one of my top priorities.


I always enjoy meeting with tenant-focused organizations, like ACORN, to chat about the best ways to support and protect our tenants here in DVN.


Earlier this week, I had a meeting with Willowdale Community Legal Services, our local legal aid clinic. My team had let me know that we’ve been getting a lot of calls from tenants lately, especially related to high rent increases. Willowdale helps with a number of legal issues, but housing and tenant rights is one of their biggest files, so I made sure to get the info we needed from them on how to best support our tenants with this issue and the many others they face. During our meeting with Willowdale, they let us know that questions about Above Guideline Increases (AGIs) is one of the most frequent calls they get, so much so that they just call them “aggies” for short. Each year, the Province sets a Rent Increase Guideline (this year it’s 1.2%). We need rent controls in our dense housing market, but they can disincentivize landlords from keeping their buildings in good shape. Landlords can appeal to the Provincial Landlord and Tenant Board to issue a higher rent increase, but only for specific reasons like undertaking major capital work, improving safety elements, or property tax increases. While these increases must be approved by the Provincial Landlord and Tenant Board, some AGIs are submitted to tenants without proper approval. If you think you have a case to appeal the increase, or if you want to learn more about what to do when you receive one, it’s important to act quickly. Getting in touch with your local legal aid clinic, like Willowdale Legal, can help you determine if your landlord is appealing for fair expenditures and arm you with the information you need to appeal if necessary. The earlier you get advice when dealing with a landlord/tenant issue, the greater chance you have of solving it without major upheaval.

Reaching out as an individual renter does work, but remember this: There is strength in numbers. If you're experiencing an issue in your building, odds are that your neighbour is too. If your building doesn’t have a tenant association, consider working together with your neighbours to launch one. The Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations (FMTA) is a great resource for kick-starting this process. They can help you set up a tenant association in your building so that you and your neighbours can tackle any challenges you face together, whether it’s building standards or appealing an AGI. Of course, not every renter lives in an apartment building. Willowdale Legal also gets hundreds of inquiries from tenants renting from individual owners, whether in a condo building or a house. Often, your individual landlord isn’t as well capitalized as a major apartment landlord, and this has led to some fraught living situations during the pandemic. While renters living in these settings may not be able to form a tenant association, you can absolutely still reach out to Willowdale Legal, FMTA, and a number of other resources to help with any challenges you’re facing. The City also has dedicated supports for renters. RentSafeTO is the team tasked with making sure multi-residential apartment buildings are meeting all City bylaws and maintenance standards. I’m constantly working with some of my Council colleagues to improve this program and make sure the right bylaws are in place to protect tenants in these types of buildings. The City also offers the Toronto Rent Bank, which provides grants to folks who are behind on their rent, along with a slew of other programs and supports. Twice a year, Josh on my team puts together a DVN Tenant Guide with helpful seasonal tips and a directory of organizations that can help renters. We drop off physical copies to many of our buildings, but you can also check out our guides online at shelleycarroll.ca/tenant-guides. I highly suggest any renter checks out these handy resources so you know what’s available to you.

Our 2021 Winter Tenant Guides provide helpful tips on navigating the winter season as a renter.


With so many different organizations out there to support tenants, it can be hard to know who to turn to first. Remember that my office should be your first stop for a couple of reasons. First, my team is the absolute best at understanding your tenant issue and pointing you in the right direction. Second, hearing from you helps me know which policy changes I need to fight for at Council so that we can tackle the biggest issues facing tenants together. Never feel guilty about seeking out tenant supports if you’re in a tough spot or you think your rights are being impinged. My team and I are here to help and advocate for you at City Hall.

 

March Break

We’ll be taking a short break from the E-Blast next week, but my office will still be open to answer all of your calls and emails. Keep scrolling through the E-Blast to find some great events and activities the whole family can enjoy right here in Toronto. If you find something really great to do around town, send it my way on Instagram or Twitter so I can share your ideas for how to enjoy a Toronto March Break.

 

Public Health Guidelines Update

The Provincial Government has announced that Ontario will remove the mandatory masking requirement for most settings on March 21, including schools, restaurants, stores, movie theatres, and more. Masks will continue to be required in the following settings until April 27:

  • Public transit

  • Health care settings

  • Long-term care and retirement homes

  • Congregate care settings

  • Shelters

For more information on these changes, visit the link below:



City Council & Committee Meetings Transitioning to Hybrid Model

Starting March 21, Toronto City Council and Committee meetings will transition to a hybrid model. Members of the public will be able to choose to attend and make deputations either in person or virtually. As of this date, the public will be allowed to access public areas beyond the counters at City Hall and civic centres.


For more information, visit the link below:

Upcoming Vaccine Clinics in Don Valley North

Parkway Forest Community Centre (55 Forest Manor Rd.)

North York General Hospital is running a vaccine clinic at Parkway Forest Community Centre on Tuesday, March 15 from 4:30 PM - 7:30 PM.

First, second, and third doses of Pfizer and Moderna are available, and all ages (5+) are welcome. Appointments are preferred, but walk-ins are welcome from 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM while supplies last. For more information, visit the link below:

Oriole Community Centre Clinic (2975 Don Mills Rd. W.)

North York General Hospital is running a walk-in vaccine clinic at Oriole Community Centre every Wednesday (12 PM to 3 PM) and Thursday (1:30 PM to 5:30 PM) until further notice. First, second, and third doses of Pfizer and Moderna are available, and all ages (5+) are welcome. For more information, visit the link below:

Booking Vaccine Appointments

COVID-19 vaccine appointments for first and second doses are available for those ages five and older. Third dose appointments are now available for those ages 12 and older. Appointments cam be booked through the provincial booking system online or by phone:

  • Online: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine/

  • Phone: 1-833-943-3900

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