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September 26, 2001
Toronto defends the right of municipalities to protect rental housing
  
In two days of hearings before the Superior Court of Justice, Divisional Court,
that begin today at 10 a.m., the City of Toronto will defend the right of
municipalities to have Official Plan policies that protect rental housing.
Toronto is joined by the cities of Ottawa and Hamilton.

Toronto's Official Plan Amendment No. 2 (OPA 2), adopted in April 1999, aims to
protect existing rental housing from condominium conversion and encourages the
replacement of rental housing as part of significant redevelopment proposals.
Following its adoption, OPA 2 was appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board
(Board). In September 1999, the board issued a decision finding OPA 2 to be
"illegal and invalid."

The City of Toronto sought leave to appeal this decision in the courts. The
Divisional Court granted the City's appeal and noted that "the correctness of
the decision of the board is open to serious debate and is of sufficient public
and legal importance to warrant the attention of the Divisional Court." A final
ruling on the legality of OPA 2 is expected within a week or so of the
conclusion of the hearing.

"When the Tenant Protection Act was introduced in 1997, then Minister of
Municipal Affairs and Housing, Al Leach clearly stated that Ontario
municipalities would keep their authority to adopt official plan policies to
restrict condominium conversions," said Councillor Joe Pantalone. "Toronto has
a very tight rental market and it is critical that we protect our existing
rental housing."

"The OPA 2 housing policies impact the lives of over half the population of the
City of Toronto. Tenants are literally fighting for one of the most basic
elements of their lives - their home. The toll on these people is absolutely
heartbreaking," said Councillor Joe Mihevc. "I have spoken with the Councillors
in Ottawa and Hamilton. They share Toronto's concern about the future of
municipalities to meet their obligation to ensure there is an appropriate
supply of rental housing."

The proceedings take place at Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, court room 3.

For more information, see the City of Toronto Web site, www.city.toronto.on.
ca/torontoplan/


Key facts about OPA 2

Chronology

April 15, 1999: OPA 2 was adopted by Toronto City Council.

July 21 to 26, 1999: OPA 2 was brought before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)
through a motion by Goldlist Properties, Kenneth-Sheppard Limited and A.J.
Green Ltd. stating "that Official Plan Amendment No. 2 of the former
Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto is inappropriate, improper and illegal
beyond the Board's jurisdiction to approve." The City of Hamilton joined the
City of Toronto in responding to the motion since they too had recently enacted
an Official Plan policy regulating the demolition and conversion of rental
housing stock.

September 21, 1999: the OMB ruled OPA 2 illegal and invalid.

September 28, 1999: Toronto City Council unanimously directed the City
Solicitor to appeal the decision of the OMB to the Superior Court of Justice,
Divisional Court.

June 5, 2000: the Superior Court of Justice, Divisional Court, granted the City
leave to appeal stating that: "the correctness of the decision of the [Ontario
Municipal] Board is open to serious debate and is of sufficient public and
legal importance to warrant the attention of the Divisional Court."

September 2000: the City of Ottawa was granted status and joined the cities of
Toronto and Hamilton in the appeal.

September 26 and 27, 2001: the Divisional Court will hear arguments from all
parties on the legality and validity of OPA 2, Osgoode Hall, Toronto.


Status of current applications involving rental demolition and
conversion


Although the legality and validity of OPA 2 is before the court, this policy
represents Council's current position on the demolition and conversion of
rental stock. Since 1998 the City has received several applications involving
the demolition and conversion of rental housing. Toronto City Council has
refused applications on the grounds that they do not comply with either the
existing in-force Official Plan policies of the former municipalities or OPA 2.

While the City has been successful in seeking the retention and/or replacement
of 469 rental units in the last two years, a
chart
outlines the number of rental units that have been approved for
demolition by the OMB.


Key facts about rental housing in Toronto

Toronto's Rental Housing Market

- The existing stock of rental housing in Toronto is being eroded through
applications to demolish or convert to condominium. Since 2000, the Ontario
Municipal Board has approved the net loss of 431 rental units through
demolition. An additional 156 rental units are at risk of demolition through
current redevelopment applications. A further 1,700 rental units could be lost
through current applications to convert to condominium.

- In 2000, only 30 rental apartment units were completed by the private sector
in the City of Toronto.

- Despite the high demand for rental accommodation, Toronto has very tight
rental market conditions. The rental apartment vacancy rate is 0.6%. This means
that only six out of every 1,000 units are vacant and available for rent. A
"healthy" balanced vacancy rate, as reported by CMHC, is between 2% and 3%.

- Between 1996 and 2000, the number of condominium apartments in Toronto grew
by 17,144, but owner-occupied condos grew by 19,344, a loss of 2,200 rental
condos. In 2000, about 26% of all condo apartment units were rented, down from
33% in 1996.

- The population of the Greater Toronto Area is forecast to grow by 2.6 million
people by 2031 and many will be renters. A healthy supply of rental housing is
key to attracting investment, jobs and residents and ensuring a high quality of
life.


Toronto's Renter Households

- There are slightly more than 900,000 households living in the city and
approximately 475,000 are renter households.

- The City of Toronto is the number one destination for immigrants in Canada
and 80% of newcomer households rent their accommodation.

- 47% of renter households are either single people or people who share
housing. Couples without children form the second largest group of renter
households (21%).

- Younger people and seniors rely more on the rental market for their housing.
One-third of renter households is headed by a person under 35 years of age and
15% of renter households are headed by a senior citizen.

Background to Official Plan Amendment No. 2

Following amalgamation in 1998, City Council initiated a process to harmonize
the City's rental housing policies. This process sought to build on the
in-force Official Plan policies that were in place in many of the former area
municipalities. On April 15, 1999, City Council adopted OPA 2 to the
Metropolitan Toronto Official Plan (By-law 147-1999).

The objectives of OPA 2 are:
(1) to identify the specific conditions under which the condominium conversion
of rental apartment buildings can take place

(2) to provide a policy to seek the replacement of rental units in cases where
a developer is applying to redevelop a property that involves the demolition of
existing rental units while also requesting planning approvals

(3) to encourage the retention of existing rental housing and the creation of
new rental housing.

OPA 2 does not address the demolition of rental housing where a developer does
not require planning approval for an increase in height and/or density.

Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) decision on OPA 2
According to the 1999 OMB decision on OPA 2, rental housing is a matter that is
addressed under the Tenant Protection Act (enacted June 17, 1998) and therefore
OPA 2, which sets up a municipal approval scheme for rental demolition and
conversion, is in conflict with provincial legislation. The implications of the
OMB decision on OPA 2 are that Ontario municipalities are limited in their
powers provided under the Planning Act to ensure a healthy supply of rental
housing. The Divisional Court will ultimately determine whether or not local
governments across Ontario have the ability to meet the needs of current and
future tenants through the municipal planning approval process.

Potential impacts of the pending court decision on OPA 2
Rental housing is important to the quality of life of our communities. In
Toronto, for example, more than half of all households rent their
accommodation. The supply of new rental housing is almost non-existent. This
has resulted in very tight rental market conditions in many Ontario
municipalities. Toronto has an apartment vacancy rate of 0.6%. Ottawa's vacancy
rate is 0.2%. There is a critical need to preserve the existing supply of
rental housing.

Municipalities have a legislated requirement to ensure the adequate provision
of a full range of housing in their communities. This obligation is fulfilled,
in part, through Official Plan policies regarding the preservation of rental
housing.


Media Contact
Access Toronto
416-338-0338

 

 

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