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Look at the real issue

It’s been two years since the tenants of south Oshawa got city hall’s attention with their fight against landlords who weren’t keeping their buildings up to snuff.

However, until recently, council appears to have all but forgotten that these issues continue right under their noses, seeming content to believe that a tenant brochure, a thin piece of folded paper with a few lines about tenant rights in the city, will suffice to solve the problem.

Now, the issue is back to the forefront of council agenda, thanks to diligent residents and ACORN Canada and their request that the city of Oshawa expand its Residential Rental Housing Licensing (RRHL) system. This system, in place in the north end, requires landlords to be licensed and maintain their properties to city standards.

However, councillors seem intent on continuing to take the same reactive approach as city staff to tenant complaints.

To be fair, councillors can be commended for starting what is being labelled as an “inter-departmental inspection team” to hopefully start inspecting a series of three high-priority buildings in November of this year. Yet this is just another bandaid on a festering wound.

It’s time for council to address the real core issue here, and it goes beyond the lack of a proactive approach to tenant issues, because if you don’t have the staff, well you’re putting the cart before the horse.

The Municipal Law Enforcement and Licensing Services (MLELS) department has been operating at the same staffing levels, for the most part, since 2006. This is a staggering realization, especially when compared to the fact that the city has grown by more than 15,000 people since that time. In the last year alone, the calls for service to MLELS have increased by 27 per cent.

It is unfathomable why the Corporate Services department continues to stand by the fact that they are “appropriately staffed”, as they recently told council. Yet, when council approaches the department with any type of serious project, there’s simply not enough staff time.

Come budget time for 2018, all councillors should accept with open arms a budget ask from MLELS that will increase the number of officers for the first time in more than a decade.

By doing so, council will not only help a department that is in dire need of additional staff, but they will also take a giant step towards implementing a proactive system that could help all tenants in this city live happier and healthier lives.

The expansion of the RRHL system would be a good thing for this city, and would ensure that landlords are held accountable for their investments and the people who choose to live inside them.

The hiring of additional staff would be the first step toward making that a reality.