Why it’s time for a rent subsidy
Sol Mamakwa - Kiiwetinoong MPP
For millions of Ontarians, the rent was due last week. And for many, the COVID-19 pandemic has left them without a way to pay their rent.
COVID-19 is a public health crisis of monumental proportions. But it’s also an economic crisis — and renters with no room in their monthly budgets are especially vulnerable now. People who have lost income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are losing sleep worrying about eviction, about how they’re going to keep putting food on the table, and how they’ll still cover the rent due this week.
Yet Ontario doesn’t have a plan to protect renters.
Rent deferrals could put both tenants and landlords into crisis. After months without regular income, how can tenants be expected to pay back all the rent they owe?
It’s time for a rent subsidy so that people can not only get through the month, but make it to the other side of this crisis without the debt of months of unpaid rent behind them.
Tenants who have lost income should receive an 80 per cent rent subsidy, to a maximum of $2,500 a household a month, for up to four months.
And there should be a complete, legal ban on evictions, lockouts and disconnections — including business tenants — for four months. No landlord should be legally allowed to attempt an eviction or threaten tenants with eviction or a utility shutoff during the pandemic.
People also deserve a six-month rent freeze that will bar landlords from jacking up the rent during this crisis, or in its aftermath, as people are trying to get back on their feet.
A rent subsidy, a ban on any threat of eviction, and a rent freeze – that’s how Queen’s Park can have people’s backs.
MPP community offices — from Toronto to my own in Sioux Lookout — are hearing from tenants and from landlord and tenant associations that they simply can’t make it through without help.
One renter, later in her career, took money out of her pension so she could write the April rent cheque after she was laid off as a result of the pandemic. She’s literally watching her retirement savings drain away, not knowing when income will start coming in again.
And there are more like her. All of these calls and emails are heartbreaking.
Across Kiiwetinoong in Sioux Lookout, Ear Falls, Pickle Lake and Red Lake, my office has heard the need for rent subsidies to help families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs, Steve Clark recently wrote that he wants landlords to be “as flexible as possible when it comes to collecting rent.” But relying on the kindness of landlords is not a plan.
For the woman who has dipped into her retirement savings and for all the others like her across Ontario, planning to owe four-months-worth of rent four months from now is not a plan.
The time for a rent subsidy is now.