Oshawa’s rental licensing revamp goes back to staff and the public for review


Published January 12, 2022 at 11:42 am

A rental licensing revamp in Oshawa that would cost taxpayer nearly $5 million a year in operating costs has been sent back to staff for eventual industry and public consultation.

The expansion of the Residential Rental Housing Licensing program elicited plenty of debate at Monday’s Corporate Services Committee, with committee members deciding on Option 1C, a city-wide expansion that is expected to cost $4,920,000 in initial annual operating costs, require 33 new staff to run and incur $733,000 in annual capital costs.

Full cost recovery through licensing and inspection fees is estimated to take three to five years.

The licensing and inspection revamp had its genesis in 2007 when property owners – particularly in the area surrounding Durham College and Ontario Tech University – were illegally retrofitting houses with extra bedrooms to rent to students, creating safety issues as well as incompatibility issues with surrounding neighbourhoods.

Those issues prompted the City to establish its licensing program and undertake bi-annual apartment building audits to ensure compliance with property maintenance standards, fire codes and adequate heat by-laws etc.

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said Monday’s decision at committee to choose the city-wide 1C Option does not “commit” the City to anything just yet.

“We’ll get the feedback and make sure everyone has something to say,” he explained. “We’re probably two years – a year-and-a-half, anyway – from doing anything.”

Under the proposed option, all licensed homes would be inspected every two years and would pay a $75 application fee and $250 base fee for the license. Individual-owned homes would pay an inspection fee of $75 per bedroom. Multi-unit homes would only see a floating percentage of their units inspected: a 25-unit building would see four units inspected while a 100-unit building would only require ten units to undergo inspection.

(If a homeowner lives in the dwelling and no more than two bedrooms are rented, no licence is required. Certain housing projects are also exempt.)

That formula got Councillor Brian Nicholson out of his (virtual) seat Monday.

“Why is there an advantage to corporate-owned buildings,” he asked. “I didn’t know we were working for the landlords … at the expense of tenants.”

When told additional inspections at multi-unit apartments would require more staff at “considerable” taxpayer’s expense, Nicholson said he would not support taxpayers getting stuck with extra cost.

“These are businesses,” he said, adding that safety has to be the “number one issue” in the program. “People have a right to know when they rent a unit in Oshawa that it meets all standards.”

Among the public feedback in the staff report was a letter written by Beth Kelly, the President of the Valiant Group, who have been renting properties in Oshawa for more than 60 years. Kelly said any additional costs to landlords under the revamped program will go straight onto the backs of renters.

“Make no mistake, this licensing fee comes out of the tenants’ rents. It is not punishing or holding a landlord accountable for not abiding by the rules,” she said. “It negatively impacts landlords who are doing everything in their power to run clean, safe and efficient buildings, in the exact same manner it does landlords who do not care what state their buildings are in.”

“In response to this proposed new fee – on the heels of a zero guideline increase in 2021 – landlords will have no choice but to hike up the rental and parking rates for incoming tenants.”

Councillor Rosemary McConkey tried to introduce a motion during the debate for the City to adopt an inclusionary zoning policy that would require developers to include a per centage of affordable housing units in each new development – a motion she called a “no-brainer” – but was shut down by her colleagues.

Staff will also take the time to develop a Tenancy Bill of Rights, which would be mandatory to be displayed in rental units.

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