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Council considering inventory system for duplexes in Oshawa

System could resemble city's current Two-Unit Housing Registration System

The city’s current Residential Rental Housing Licensing System, above, keeps track of rental housing in the north end. A similar system is being contemplated for duplex houses. (Graphic courtesy of the City of Oshawa).

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A system that would inventory the city’s duplex homes and require inspections for property and fire code standards could be in the cards for Oshawa’s future.

At the meeting of council’s Corporate Services committee on March 26, councillors unanimously passed a motion to have staff look into the possibility of adding duplexes into the city’s current Two-Unit Housing Registration System, or creating a “mirrored” registration system for these types of homes.

While the names sound similar, two-unit houses differ in that they were originally constructed as a single detached dwelling and were later converted to more than one unit, whereas duplexes are built as whole buildings at the time of construction.

However, without a system to register and track these types of units, Councillor Amy McQuaid-England noted that it can leave prospective tenants vulnerable and without the proper information when looking to rent an apartment.

“When someone goes online and they’re a renter, they have very limited options to find out whether their unit is legal,” she says.

And this can also leave tenants in a bit of a catch-22 because if they inquire with city staff about the unit, and it turns out to be in violation of city bylaws, as they may find themselves without a home.

“This basically means that bylaw (officers) will have to enforce the zoning bylaw and those people can and usually are evicted from the residence,” she says.

If a system were to be put in place, tenants would have the ability to check and make sure the unit they are looking to rent is registered, legal and up to municipal and provincial building and fire code standards.

“It gives a next step in terms of protection for tenants and access to information,” McQuaid-England says.

Councillor Gail Bates also had positive words regarding the creation of such a system, noting that it would keep the momentum going on the city’s ongoing efforts to improve the lives of tenants in Oshawa.

“We need to keep moving. We’ve already got our licensing in place up in the north end for student dwellings, we’re starting to get the apartments more carefully looked at, and now we have a chance to move forward with duplexes,” Bates says. “This helps to keep our tenants safe.”

A timeline was not provided for when a report would come back to council.

Over the last year, tenant issues in Oshawa have become a hot topic in the council chambers, resulting in scattered results for renters across the board.

Currently, a Residential Rental Housing Licensing Bylaw exists in the north end of the city around the campus of Durham College and UOIT.  It ensures that rental units are inspected and kept up to code for students.

Last year, while considering a request to expand such a system across the entire city, Oshawa staff undertook a trio of inspections at apartment buildings in priority areas of Oshawa.

The three buildings chosen for the project were 275 Wentworth Street East, 155 King Street East, and 222 Nonquon Road, all of which sit in a priority area identified under the Region of Durham’s Health Neighbourhoods Mapping System as having serious deficiencies related to health and wellness of the individuals living there.

As a result, the common areas of all three buildings were inspected with the task force finding violations in the fire code and property standards bylaw in all three locations as well as violations to the lot maintenance bylaw at 275 Wentworth.

However, following the initiative, council quashed the idea of expanding the RRHL city-wide citing the high cost of hiring a consultant. Instead, further proactive inspections of apartment buildings are slated to take place this year.

According to the motion brought forward during budget time in December, staff will be undertaking two “building audit projects” in 2018.