Number of renters limited

“We’re going to have to do some work to get this right,” admitted Ward 6 councillor Jeff Henry in response to the Jan. 6 release of a report detailing a new Residential Rental Housing by-law that looks to improve living conditions, maintenance and density concerns in rental housing.

This by-law has been developing since 2007, when Bill 130 was passed by the province granting municipalities the right to license and regulate residential renting.

Director of by-law Jim Barry explained “We want to provide those safe and healthy places for people to live and that’s really what our focus is.”

In order to achieve this aim, a series of conditions must be met by the property owner before attaining a license. Along with a fee, they would be required to submit floor plans, acquire liability insurance, comply with all existing health and
safety regulations, as well as provide various other documentation.

Compliance to these regulations would be observed through a self-audit basis. By leaving intervention to only “risk-based enforcement” Barry believes that the city would be able to more efficiently address the needs of the community.

One problem that many students have encountered in their lodging is a higher density of people occupying one rental home than is healthy or necessary.
As the by-law currently stands, rental houses are able to obtain a lodging house licence in order to contain more than three lodgers.

Should the new by-law be passed, any new property owners would be required to restrict the number of bedrooms to three per rental accommodation, a number which is derived from Waterloo’s census family statistics. More people could inhabit the space provided the property conformed to the Zoning By-law regulations or if a boarding house license is sought.

For property owners who currently hold the lodging house license, which allows them to accommodate greater than three lodgers, a transitional license would be available.

Barry believes that this system “will provide an equal playing field across the board.” The transitional license allows current owners to maintain the number of lodgers which they were permitted under the former license until the property is sold. The initial reaction from landlords has been less than positive, an “understatement” according to Henry.

However, Henry believes the dialogue and response must be diverse in order to ensure that the by-law is best suited for everyone. “If we don’t hear from all sides,” he said, “It’s going to make it even more of a challenge to get the balance right and to make sure it serves everyone in the community.”

The plan was proposed to city council on Jan. 10. Barry anticipated the varied reactions to the proposal, but believes that “it’s going to be up to the community to decide the level of health and safety they want to provide.” A revised by-law will be released in April in response to community input.

Student and community involvement will be crucial in determining the success or failure of the by-law. “We’re encouraging everybody to come out and voice the good, the bad, whatever they have to say,” concluded Barry.

Online registration is available for open houses at the City of Waterloo website, which will be held at the Hauser Haus Jan.13, 18 and 20.

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