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Why we Oppose Condominium Conversions

June 22, 2018 Hamilton Issues

Samuel Mason, a lawyer at the Clinic, recently addressed the City of Hamilton Planning Committee on the issue of converting rental property at 115 Main Street East to condominiums. City staff oppose the conversion and have presented strong planning reasons why it should not go ahead. Nevertheless, many Council members appear to be ready to support the conversion.

Here is an edited version of his presentation.

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There is a growing and common theme in what Hamilton tenants are expressing to me.

They are getting evicted, sometimes legally and sometimes illegally. Regardless of the reason they know that they will be unsuccessful in finding a home with an equivalent rental rate.

There are fewer options for renters, and less options means less supply, and with little supply landlords are able to raise rents higher.

The Report

A new report was released this month, co-released by three organizations:

the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton,the Hamilton Roundtable on Poverty Reduction and the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.

The report (http://www.sprc.hamilton.on.ca/publications/#out-of-control:-ontario%E2%80%99s-acute-rental-housing-crisis-%E2%80%93-lessons-from-hamilton-and-quebec-city) compares the rental market in Hamilton to Quebec City. Both of which have similar population sizes and population growth rates.

Here are two statistics from the report to consider:

• Page 2 of the report highlights the steady and unsustainable growth in all rental rates in this city: in recent years averaging 5% a year.

• The Canada Housing and Mortgage Cooperation reported that Hamilton's vacancy rate for apartments dropped from 3.8 per cent to 2.4 per cent last year.

What does this mean?

On the first page we highlight that eviction application by landlord’s against tenants has increased by 95% (nearly doubling) from 2010-2016. One of the primary incentives for landlords to seek eviction of tenants is to make the unit vacant.

Once it is vacant they can legally raise the rent to any imaginable number. In the current rental market, which offers fewer and fewer options for tenants, we are seeing landlords attempting to usurp the provincial rent control regulations by encouraging tenant turnover.

Allowing this rental building to be converted to condominiums will further the decline in the vacancy rate and will therefore contribute to rental housing unaffordability in this city.

Conclusion

We are seeing renters in Hamilton have reduced mobility. They’re stuck with fewer and fewer places to live. With each reduced option the risk of homelessness is increased.

Tenants are stuck. They are facing pressure to leave from their landlord’s so they can reset the rent, but have nowhere to go. Similarly, they are disempowered from demanding more of their landlord’s in regards to maintenance and repairs in the units, because their landlord’s know they are without options. They are getting squeezed out and they are often our city’s most vulnerable citizens.

For these reasons, the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic is in support of the staff position to deny this condominium conversion application.

Thank you for your time.

After some discussion the item was deferred to a later date. Reports from the meeting indicate that Matthew Green was the only Council member to support the staff recommendation to deny the application for conversion.

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