“Torontonians deserve good, affordable spaces”: A Q&A with Abigail Bond of Toronto’s Housing Secretariat

“Torontonians deserve good, affordable spaces”: A Q&A with Abigail Bond of Toronto’s Housing Secretariat

The executive director talks rent control, renovictions and the need to protect the city’s tenants

Abigail Bond is the executive director of Toronto’s Housing Secretariat. She’s on a mission to reinstate rent control and make renovictions a thing of the past.

It’s a frustrating, infuriating, terrifying time to be a renter in Toronto. Agreed?
We have a volatile rental market. People are being priced out of renting, and the inventory remains low. Ending vacancy decontrol, the policy that allows landlords to raise rent as much as they want between tenants, would be one way to help—and would play a part in deterring renovictions.

That’s a big ship to turn. Can the city do anything to help renters in the meantime?
The city doesn’t have great data on the frequency and magnitude of renovictions, but we know that they are ubiquitous. Many renters have shared stories with us, but we can’t rely only on anecdotes.

Sure, but renters are desperate. Has there been any attempt to collect that data?
Yes, that’s happening now. Plus, we recently pushed city council to reinstate a bylaw designed to stop renovictions. Under it, landlords would need to tell the city about any planned renovation. It’s modelled after BC’s Residential Tenancy Act, which requires landlords to apply for renovation permission. If our bylaw gets a green light, tenants will have four months to vacate and will receive the equivalent of one month’s rent.

Critics, including landlords, would say that stripping them of the power to price their units at market rates will discourage investment in rental stock. Is it worth the risk?
Growth in rental supply is important. But we also need to focus on protecting the city’s existing renters and not compromising their housing for the benefit of future residents. We cannot choose just one priority: we need to do both.

So we need to protect current renters in order for Toronto to remain a city people actually want to live in?
Absolutely. Otherwise, some people will leave the city altogether. We don’t want that. Our city relies on many people to run well—from grocery store workers to teachers to taxi drivers. And they deserve good, affordable spaces.