The Province of Ontario has officially introduced a legislation that, if passed, will freeze rent for “most rent-controlled and non-rent-controlled residential units” in 2021.
Titled the “Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act,” the bill would provide the “vast majority” of tenants across the province with financial relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From the very beginning of this pandemic, our government promised the families, workers and small business owners of this province that we would have their backs and provide them with the support they need to get back on their feet,” said Premier Doug Ford, who made the announcement on Thursday alongside Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“The crisis is far from over and the threat of a second wave is real, as are the challenges it will bring. That’s why we need to take the necessary steps now to help families keep a roof over their heads and small businesses keep their doors open.”
Minister Clark said the province is looking to stabilize rent because the governing body understands that 2020 “is not like any other year.”
“We know that families are continuing to be impacted by COVID-19. We know landlords have worked hard to be accommodating and have made sacrifices. We know that by continuing to work together, we will move past this extraordinary time and get Ontario back on track,” he said.
The Act also proposes to change the Commercial Tenancies Act, in order to extend the temporary ban on evictions for commercial tenants. Initially in place from May 1 to August 31, 2020, the ban aligned with the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses. If passed, the extended temporary ban would continue to apply to businesses that are eligible for federal-provincial rent assistance through the CECRA for small businesses, but their landlord chose not to apply for the program.
The continued ban would protect small businesses from being locked out or having their assets seized during the pandemic, protecting them and, ultimately, allowing for the continued creation of jobs and economic rebuild.
“We partnered with the federal government to provide commercial rent relief and so far over 50,000 tenants have received support,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t behind us. That’s why we are working with our federal partners to explore opportunities to ensure small businesses continue to receive the support they need.”
Finally, in addition to the rent freeze and commercial tenant protection, the proposed legislation would create a single register of voters for municipal and provincial elections. The expectation is that this system be more accurate, could mean fewer corrections for voters at polling stations, fewer delays for people on election day, and may reduce costs for municipalities.