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Review of rental licensing system moving ahead

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Despite concerns from some councillors, city staff will once again explore the possibility of making Oshawa’s rental licensing system citywide.

Council has approved a recommendation from the corporate services committee asking for a staff report on the feasibility of expanding the Residential Rental Housing Licensing (RRHL) system.

The current RRHL system only applies to the areas surrounding the campuses of Durham College and Ontario Tech University.

The system was put in place in 2008 and requires landlords to maintain their premises under provincial fire, building, and electrical codes, along with adhering to city bylaws related to property standards and zoning.

Oshawa’s commissioner of corporate services Tracy Adams said there are approximately 750 licensed properties under the RRHL.

Ward 2 city councillor Jane Hurst, who introduced the motion at committee, restated her stance at the latest city council meeting.

“Still, my position is why is it we have… that higher standard of care for [students]. Everyone is valuable, everyone deserves the same standard of care,” she said.

Hurst said many units in the city would meet “less than minimum standards of rental accommodations.”

“People deserve something better than that,” Hurst said, adding she hopes this makes “property owners stand up and take notice.”

But Hurst’s ward colleague Tito-Dante Marimpietri doesn’t see the benefit in expanding the RRHL system.

“I see bureaucracy,” he commented.

Marimpietri believes it could also lead to tenants losing their homes because rental unit owners who are not up to code won’t be willing to do the necessary improvements or are simply unable to.
To him, it is a policy that would be difficult to enforce.

“I think we are doing something that may set up a false expectation, and a situation where we’re being asked why we aren’t enforcing what we voted through,” Marimpietri said.

Ward 4 city councillor Derek Giberson said it is a legitimate concern people may lose their homes by expanding the RRHL.

However, he believes it would be a “slim number,” and many tenants would “see their living arrangements improve.”

Both Giberson and Ward 5 city and regional councillor Brian Nicholson noted council is only asking staff to investigate, and nothing is set in stone.

“This is a consultation. It’s an opportunity for our staff to go back and make a plan of action,” Nicholson said. “How can we truly vote on a potential course of action until we’ve at least allowed our staff to flesh out how they truly believe we should move forward.”

To Ward 4 city and regional councillor Rick Kerr, council requires “quality data” to make a “quality decision.”

“I think that is what this motion is asking of us,” Kerr stated.

Ward 5 city councillor John Gray was also opposed.

While he said the system was needed in the areas near the college and the university, he sees a “real problem” in making it citywide.

“We are going to divert so many resources… I don’t think this is the approach we [should] take,” he said.

Ward 1 city and regional councillor John Neal said when the system was put in place over a decade ago, many assumed it wasn’t going to work.

“But it was the only thing we had, and it did work. I think this can be done citywide,” he said.

Council supported the recommendation by an eight-to-three vote with Marimpietri, Gray and Ward 1 city councillor Rosemary McConkey opposed.