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Hamilton renoviction bylaw sent back to city staff for further revisions, cost analysis

A tenants rights group rallied in front of Hamilton city hall, calling for councillors to implement a bylaw to prevent renovictions. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

Editors Note: An edict on the “Safe Apartment Bylaw” at the end of this article has been adjusted for clarity after publishing. The timing of the possible legislation was altered based on information provided by the Hamilton Community Benefits Network. 

A prospective Hamilton, Ont., bylaw to help renters fight off renoviction will be revisited in the new year as the city seeks legal advice and a list of budget items to create an inspection program.

The Renovation Licence and Relocation Listing bylaw has been sent back for further study, with Hamilton councillors unanimously voting in favour of action to ensure a brighter future for some 70,000 rental households.

The city has been seeking policy tools to beef up bylaws to aid renters exposed to crumbling apartment buildings and renovictions.

The challenge is to create a set of legally-defensible rules for landlords that would protect tenants from eviction through renovations, while also ensuring that property standards are being met.

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Recommendations brought forth in the summer suggested landlords obtain a licence from the city and pay a fee for renovations when seeking an N-13 notice — ending a tenancy due to a desire to demolish, repair or convert a rental unit.

However, staff acknowledged it was problematic since the legality of it could be challenged in accordance with provincial laws, particularly if the city denies issuance of such a licence to a landlord.

It also had hoped to require landlords to provide three listings of comparably-priced dwellings to a departing tenant upon issuance of an N-13 notice.

Housing advocate and delegate ACORN said that stipulation was not realistic since most rents for new listings in Hamilton are much higher than the low market rates being paid by those renting in buildings built before 2018.

Last April, staff estimated the city is losing some 23 affordable units for every new affordable unit being built, equating to the loss of around 16,000 rental units priced below $750 per month.

Some 132 applications by landlords were made in 2022 seeking to evict tenants, an action that can go unnoticed by the city since the process is managed by the province.

As of Wednesday, just under 1,900 Hamiltonians are actively homeless with some 280 encamped in the city.

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Ward 3 councillor Nrinder Nann fears the rental market in the city is continuing to shift in trends that are “absolutely predictable.”

“We know where this story is headed,” she said.

“We have a duty and an obligation as a municipality to curb that trend.”

Ahead of the emergency and community committee meeting Thursday, ACORN commended the city’s efforts but still suggests it won’t do enough to disincentivize renoviction.

“The bylaw needs to be improved to better ensure that tenants understand their rights, are able to obtain temporary housing, and are able to successfully exercise their right of first refusal” the outlet said in a statement.

The city is also working on a “Safe Apartment Bylaw,” similar to initiatives in Toronto and Mississauga calling on inspectors to licence landlords and inspect buildings to make sure they meet property standards.

In August, Karl Andrus from the Hamilton Community Benefits Network said adoption of that bylaw isn’t expected until after the 2024 budget.

He says one-time inspections of some estimated 50,000 households that need to be registered could take several years.

“We’re not looking at this possibly starting until about 2025, and it’ll take the city about a year and a half to inspect all the buildings,” Andrus explained.

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Both bylaw proposals are expected to be back in front of councillors in January.

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