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Staff seeks cash to fight rental housing problems

City hall staff want an extra $150,000 a year to be spent on strengthening the city’s efforts to deal with problems linked to shared rental housing, instead of creating a licensing program for this type of housing.
Most of the additional money would pay for hiring a new “cross-trained” inspector who would deal with zoning, property standards and building code issues, says a staff report that goes to a meeting today (Aug. 5) of a city council committee.
“This position will also create additional capacity to focus on search warrants, pursuing repeat offenders (i.e., ‘zero-tolerance’ approach), communications and outreach, while maintaining current levels of proactive zoning inspections,” the report says.
The proposed $150,000 budget expansion, which would be considered by council as part of the city’s 2015 budget, includes money for a communications and education campaign.
City council decided last summer to proceed with public consultations on a licensing program for rental property, aimed at giving the city more control over student housing as well as other types of rental housing. The consultations lasted until March, and in May staff recommended the city not pursue a licensing program at this time.
The new report  provides a more detailed rationale for backing away from licensing and for favouring a different approach that builds on the “proactive enforcement program” started by the city in 2012.
This proactive program – a departure from the normal approach of responding to complaints – has had considerable success in improving rental accommodations and addressing neighbourhood concerns about shared rental housing, the report says.
Since 2012, more than 950 proactive investigations have been conducted, in addition to more than 200 complaint-based investigations, it says.
The city has identified 548 unregistered accessory apartments since 2012. Of these, 354 have now been upgraded and registered with the city, 35 have been removed and 159 are in the process of being brought into compliance, the report says.
Also since 2012, the city has identified 149 lodging houses. Eighteen of these have been certified, 115 have been removed and 16 are in the process of becoming compliant, it says.
While the city’s goal is to “gain voluntary compliance, the proactive enforcement program has resulted in more than 290 charges being laid since 2012 for non-compliance” with the city’s zoning bylaw, its two-unit house registration program and the Ontario Building Code. Before 2012, “only a handful of charges were laid per year,” it says.
Before 2013, identification and resolution of property standards issues  averaged about 130 a year, the report says. However, a bolstering of enforcement staff “helped contribute to the proactive investigation and resolution of 470 proactive property standards infractions” in 2013, the report says.
As well, noise complaints from neighbourhoods have dropped, it says.

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