Emergency and Protective Services is conducting a review of regulations governing private sector rental properties to address public health and safety, consumer protection, community nuisances and other areas of municipal concern.

This review includes a review of policy options to address housing conditions, student housing, rooming houses and shared accommodations.

Current status

Maclaren Municipal Consulting is conducting an independent review of Ottawa’s regulations concerning private sector rental housing to identify any areas for improvement and recommend possible solutions.

Following an initial consultation on Rental Housing Conditions and Student Housing and Shared Accommodations, residents are invited to explore various Policy options for rental housing and complete an online survey by September 4, 2019.

Further information about the rental accommodations study is below.

Rental housing conditions

Approximately 1/3 of Ottawa’s residents live in rental housing.

For many, rental housing provides a flexible and affordable alternative to home ownership. For some, rental housing brings unwelcome challenges based on the quality, availability and affordability of rental units that meet their needs.

While the Province of Ontario regulates most aspects of the relationship between tenants and landlords, the City of Ottawa has enacted a number of by-laws which directly or indirectly regulate rental housing. These include:

  • The Building By-law (2014-220) regulates the administration and enforcement of the Ontario Building Code Act, 1992 respecting the construction, renovation or any change of use of buildings and designated structures.
  • The Heat By-law (2010-210) regulates the maintenance of adequate heat in rented dwelling accommodations.
  • The Licensing By-law (2002-189), Schedule 26 licenses and regulates rooming houses.
  • The Property Maintenance By-law (2005-208) regulates the clearing and cleaning of refuse, debris or snow and ice from all properties.
  • The Property Standards By-law (2013-416) prescribes standards under which properties are to be maintained. This by-law regulates residential properties, non-residential properties, vacant buildings, vacant lands, open space land, and Heritage Properties.

The City is currently considering whether updates to these by-laws or new by-laws are required to effectively manage public health and safety, consumer protection and community nuisances related to rental accommodations.

The City will consider how proposed changes in regulation influence three key factors:

Quality

  • Are the current property standards appropriate for rental housing?
  • How can the City work to ensure these standards are met more consistently?

Availability

  • Can regulatory changes encourage more investment in private residential rental properties, or protect existing housing?
  • Do existing or proposed regulations discourage investment in rental housing or encourage loss of existing housing?
  • How are Short-Term Rentals affecting the availability of private market residential rental units?
  • How are vacant properties affecting the availability of private market residential rental units?

Affordability

  • How would regulatory changes impact housing costs?
  • How is gentrification impacting rental costs and what role should the municipality play in managing resulting issues like “renovictions”?

The scope of this study is limited to regulations for private sector rental housing. Changes to social housing policies or funding are not included in this review. The study is also not considering changes to regulations for group homes, long-term care facilities or other forms of assisted living. Community input on these issues will be referred to Community and Social Services department.

Similarly, the study will not address development or other land-use planning considerations. Planning issues arising from the study will be referred to the Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development department for consideration in the new Official Plan and other studies, such as the Residential Fourth Density (R4) Zoning Review.

A Rental Accommodations Working Group is coordinating activities and sharing information across six City departments:

  • Community and Social Services
  • Corporate Services
  • Emergency and Protective Services
  • Office of the City Clerk and Solicitor
  • Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development
  • Service Innovation and Performance Department

Student Housing and Shared Accommodations

Ottawa is fortunate to host five exceptional post-secondary institutions.

Canada ranks first among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member nations in terms of population with post-secondary education.

Ottawa leads the way, with more graduates than any other Canadian city.

Access to highly skilled and trained graduates, and the ability to collaborate with educational institutions, makes Ottawa highly desirable for employers.

This has helped fuel our ongoing achievement of high living standards and our reputation as one of the best cities in the world to live, invest and raise a family.

Over the last decade, Ottawa has seen an unprecedented growth in student population. While this growth has largely benefited our economy and culture, these benefits have not come without challenges:

  • The City’s low vacancy rate and increasing rental costs have made it more difficult for students to find affordable housing, especially in neighbourhoods near post-secondary institutions.
  • A lack of affordable units has led to instances of overcrowding
  • Property developers have created high-density “bunkhouses” in low profile communities which traditionally included family accommodation
  • Conflicts between students and neighbours has increased demand for by-law enforcement

Recently, a number of student-focused housing developments have helped ease pressure on the availability and affordability of private market rental housing. At the same time the City has taken measures to prohibit further bunkhouse development. (See: Residential Fourth Density (R4) Zoning Review)

The Rental Accommodations Study is not intended to address housing supply. However, the study will examine the role housing supply has played in creating the above noted challenges and consider regulatory changes to better manage these challenges moving forward.

Rooming houses

There are more than 1,300 licensed rooming house units in the City. Concentrated in the urban core, rooming houses are an important piece of the housing continuum.

Rooming Houses serve a broad array of low-income residents and help to alleviate pressure on the social housing system.

Historically, the quality of rooming houses has varied greatly. Some units are exceptionally well run, providing quality housing that is well integrated into the community.

Other rooming houses have been very problematic. These providers deliver low-quality, accommodations that risk the health and safety of tenants. Many rooming house tenants have addictions and mental health issues, which can increase conflict between tenants, and between tenants and landlords.

Beginning in January 2019, the City of Ottawa has dedicated a Property Standards Officer to inspect and enforce rooming house regulations on a full-time basis.

In addition to this important measure to improve rooming house standards, the Rental Accommodations Study will examine the current regulations to identify opportunities to improve living conditions for tenants.

The City is also considering options to address unlicensed rooming houses and multiple room rentals within single households.

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