May 28, 2020
Hon. Steve Clark
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
17th floor, 777 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3
Dear Minister Clark:
The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) wants to applaud you and your Government’s actions to protect Ontarians struggling to make ends meet during these difficult times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As outlined in your letter of April 30 2020, I am pleased to hear that the Ford Government has expanded the Emergency Assistance program and has announced funding to Service Managers that will assist eligible households facing difficulty paying their rent, mortgages, and utilities.
I wanted to follow up on my April 3, 2020 letter to you. OREA continues to support a comprehensive solution that will bring forward enhanced stability for both landlords and tenants. As we now enter the third month of the State of Emergency, mom and pop landlords are feeling increasingly strained. Many tenants are continuing to face significant financial hardships and are being forced to decide between paying rent and paying for other necessities.
In any given month in Ontario, the Federation of Rental-housing Providers (FRPO) reports that 99 per cent of rents are typically paid to landlords. In April 2020, only 90 per cent of rents were paid to Ontario’s landlords. FRPO expects that the percentage of rents paid in May will be even lower. With tenants continuing to face financial difficulties, they will continue to put off paying their rents in the summer months, making it more difficult for them to pay back the arrears on their rents once they are back to work. Our concern is that once the State of Emergency is lifted, there will be a significant number of eviction orders placed on these struggling tenants. To help alleviate financial pressures, prevent future evictions, and avoid rental providers being forced to sell their properties, Ontario should consider introducing a rent subsidy program to support landlords who have been significantly impacted by the pandemic.
OREA strongly believes a time-limited, direct support payment to Ontario’s landlords who need it most will provide increased stability during these unprecedented times. If a tenant is unable to pay their rent, the landlord should receive financial assistance from the Ontario Government to help alleviate the financial pressure and prevent delayed evictions.
As you know, jurisdictions including, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Arizona, and New York have implemented similar rent subsidy programs that Ontario can base its program on. OREA recommends modelling the rent subsidy program off of British Columbia’s Temporary Rental Supplement Program. The program provides a temporary rental supplement that is paid directly to the landlord and covers a portion of the rent for tenants who have lost income because of the pandemic.
I would also want to take this opportunity to share OREA’s support for FRPO’s proposed program to support struggling tenants across the province. The proposed Ontario Rental Assistance Program (ORAP) would be a time-limited program that would bring interest-free loans to help tenants offset rental costs and help smaller, “mom and pop” landlords lose their investments.
While OREA and FRPO encourage tenants and landlords to work together to discuss alternative payment arrangements, we recognize that both parties are continuing to feel a particular sense of fear and anxiety during this time.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss the development of both these programs with you and your officials at a time that is convenient for you.
Please feel free to contact Jason Lagerquist, OREA’s Head of Government Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org should you require additional information.
CEO, Ontario Real Estate Association