Decision expected Tuesday on Hamilton’s rental housing licensing pilot program

City staff recommend that Hamilton's rental housing licensing pilot program be postponed due to the impacts of COVID-19. Lisa Polewski / Global News

The councillors whose areas include McMaster University and Mohawk College are urging colleagues to proceed with a pilot project to license rental housing in Wards 1 and 8.

A staff report will go before Hamilton’s planning committee on Tuesday, recommending the pilot not happen before 2023 because of pressures on the rental market due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Planning staff, in arguing for the postponement, also warns of the potential for a high level of displacement when the province ends a moratorium on evictions.

Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson and Ward 8 Coun. John Paul Danko have released a statement saying they are jointly committed to immediately implementing the licensing bylaw.

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Danko says the measure is “long overdue” to ensure that everyone is living in safe units that comply with building, fire and electrical codes and other regulations.

“We’re really hoping that this bylaw will help give the City of Hamilton the leverage that we need to enforce standards,” says Danko, “and make sure tenants are living in safe units.”

“We’re seeing growing numbers of rentals that are just being purchased by absentee landlords and real estate investors,” Danko says, adding that these owners often rent these properties to “disadvantaged populations, newcomers or low-income people, who are then being forced to live in very substandard conditions.”

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The two-year pilot program would cost about $2 million to implement, but Danko says a full cost recovery fee would ensure those expenses are paid by landlords, not Hamilton taxpayers.

“The city licenses and inspects restaurants and hair salons reasons of health and safety,” Wilson says. “Why not these rental properties?”

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