Toronto mayor’s refusal to let councillors meet over rooming house rule a mystery

Staff in Toronto’s planning department have held series of meetings to examine Toronto’s rooming house sector as a way to boost supply, as the city grapples with an affordable housing crisis Staff in Toronto’s…

Toronto mayor's refusal to let councillors meet over rooming house rule a mystery

Staff in Toronto’s planning department have held series of meetings to examine Toronto’s rooming house sector as a way to boost supply, as the city grapples with an affordable housing crisis

Staff in Toronto’s planning department have held series of meetings to examine Toronto’s rooming house sector as a way to boost supply, as the city grapples with an affordable housing crisis.

The rooms, also known as bedsites or hovels, are an important part of the city’s hotel sector. If the rooms aren’t being rented, they sit empty and are ripe for vandalism.

On Friday, councillors around Toronto debated a staff report on the rooming house report – which received support from Tory and other members of his caucus. The mayor then declared that the city’s ward boundaries should be redrawn to fix problems with the current electoral map.

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The rooming house report came as a surprise to housing activists, who expressed frustration at being denied a chance to have their opinions heard on a city committee considering a special committee, chaired by the mayor, to discuss new rules around rooming houses.

The report took nine months to prepare, and was completed in late May. Even though Toronto’s municipal politicians have been debating new rules around rooming houses in Toronto for the past three years, they’ve never met to do so.

Toronto’s rooming house report came as a surprise to housing activists, who expressed frustration at being denied a chance to have their opinions heard on a city committee considering a special committee, chaired by the mayor, to discuss new rules around rooming houses. Photograph: Toronto neighbourhood committee

The committee was scheduled to meet on 19 July and again on 20 July to discuss additional resources the city could provide to deal with the issue of oversupply in rooming houses. The two committee meetings were cancelled at the last minute, first by Tory, then by an obscure committee that meets on monthly basis to deal with minor local concerns.

Few details were provided about why the meetings were cancelled, leaving the public and experts uncertain how serious the mayor was about finding a solution to the issue.

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However, the omission of the meeting from Toronto’s planning committee document did not go unnoticed. Political commentator Amin Massoudi, writing in the Toronto Star, drew parallels between the lack of rooming house meetings and the role the lieutenant governor of Ontario played in the decision to cancel the province’s time-share announcement.

“The basic question is: is it about the rooming house report or about a larger issue that has little to do with what is discussed in those committee meetings?” Massoudi wrote.

Later this year, Toronto’s neighbourhood committee will deal with the issue of scaling back the city’s rooming house regulations, and what tweaks the city should make to its policies.

Jonathan Gormick, a Toronto civil liberties lawyer who has represented tenants at rooming houses in the past, said the city’s approach to rooming houses is “very unusual.”

“The reason people complain about these rooms is because they are the targets of violence,” Gormick said. “People are terrified when they walk through them.”

The mayor was unavailable for comment.

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