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4. Reported impacts

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During the inquiry, the OHRC heard concerns from tenants, landlords and other individuals about:

  • Per-person floor area requirements
  • Minimum separation distances
  • Different systems based on number of bedrooms
  • Gross floor area requirements
  • Licensing fees

4.1 Per-person floor area requirements

In most cases, the bylaw requires that each rented bedroom “shall be a minimum of seven (7) square metres per occupant.” This requirement is significantly more stringent than the Building Code.[48] This requirement could render many Building Code-compliant bedrooms un-rentable to couples, or to other renters or family members who intend to share the bedroom.

A City document from 1989 states that imposing a minimum floor space per person “would affect large families.”[49]

The City commented:

The floor space requirements were not based on formal published standards; they are designed to provide tenants with adequate accommodation, including reasonable-sized rooms, consistent with the City’s health and safety concerns and the City’s intention to maintain rental housing stock in accordance with its short-term and long-term planning objectives. The local universities have identified serious mental health issues observed in their students relating directly to housing conditions, and they urged the City specifically to incorporate floor space requirements in its Rental Housing Licensing By-law with a view to ensuring that tenants have healthy and liveable accommodations.[50]

The City states that, since its 1989 report, its work on numerous projects ensures that families and other Code-protected groups do in fact have adequate housing available, and that the floor space requirements do not negatively affect them in “any material fashion.”[51] It cites concerns about a trend toward sub-standard housing, with unreasonably small bedrooms and unreasonably little amenity floor space as a rationale for these requirements.

The OHRC supports the City’s efforts to address genuine health and safety concerns. However, if the rental housing in question meets Building Code, Fire Code and electrical safety standards, and would be acceptable if it was owned housing, it is not clear on what basis or by what standard the City is defining such housing to be unreasonable or “sub-standard.”  

One tenant said:

…I’m friends with a refugee family who … at one point they were living in a two-bedroom apartment, and there were quite a lot of them living there, and I’d hate if this bylaw was against them – they had 3 children in one room, the mom and her sister in the other room.

She also shared her concerns about how the 7m2 requirement could affect her, given that her daughters shared a room smaller than that:

My two daughters (5 and 2) share a small bedroom, my husband and I have a bedroom, and my unborn child will soon occupy the third bedroom. We also usually have a boarder in a large finished basement room. I’m not sure how this bylaw will affect us but I’m nervous it will in some way. We are a low income family, so any rise in rent would be very harmful to us. Also, I would never want my daughters in a separate room, even if I had the space, because I see how it bonds them and enriches their lives …I wouldn’t want to know that my family was somehow breaking the law by having my kids share a bedroom.”

The OHRC followed up with this tenant recently. She said that a bylaw officer visited her home and told the landlord that the 7m2 requirement wouldn’t apply to them, because she had signed the lease before the bylaw came into effect, but wouldn’t provide her landlord with anything in writing about the exception. She said that she was worried about finding a place if she ever has to move. She also stated:

I did express my concern to the bylaw officer about my kids sharing a room and the human rights impact of the bylaw, and the bylaw officer said it was because of human rights that they had to apply it to families and students the same.

Some landlords told the OHRC that they have had to turn away families because if they accepted them they would be in breach of the 7m2 requirement. Two landlords who each rent out three-bedroom houses recently described specific examples of this screening – in one case two adults and three children, in another two adults and six children. One of these landlords told the OHRC that she currently houses a couple and their three adult children. She said she contacted the City and was told that she could apply for an “exception,” but had not yet finalized the process.

Another landlord’s survey response said:

We would have to restrict our tenants to families of four or less, as the three bedrooms in our 1600 square foot townhouse would not allow for the 7 square metres per occupant if two children roomed together.

When the OHRC followed up with this landlord recently, she said:

The previous tenants moved out in October 2012. They were a family with two children. When finding replacement tenants for November [2012] our property manager only screened in applicants with a family configuration of two children or less in order to conform with this rule.

Other landlords say that while they originally feared that they would face challenges because of the 7m2 requirement, those challenges did not become a reality. For example, one landlord stated on her survey that:

I will need to know if Mom + Dad intend to be together in the Master Bedroom, which is 12.9 sq metres – maybe I can’t rent to family.

In a follow-up conversation with the OHRC, however, she told us that she:

... spoke with city by-law people about the size of the master bedroom and they did not have a concern since in their calculation process the measurement met the requirements.

Another landlord stated on her survey that:

My other property is rented to a family with small children which I might not be able to keep since its only a 3 bedroom and according to the new rental licence it might not accommodate 2 children in one room.

In a follow-up conversation with the OHRC, however, she said that while by her measurement the room shared by the children is 10 feet by 11 feet (less than 14 square metres):

 [I]t must meet [the city’s] quota I think, because I gave in the plans and gave the measurements, and they issued the licence, so I assume I met the requirements.

One landlord said:

I think if it’s little kids, like under 16 or something, they can share. … I don’t remember where I heard that, that was my impression.

It is possible that the landlords above may have measured differently than the City and that, by the City’s analysis, the 7m2 requirement was fulfilled, or it is possible that the City granted licenses to these landlords in error. It is also possible that the City is granting exemptions in some cases to the 7m2 requirement. If the City is granting exemptions to the 7m2 requirement, the OHRC is not aware of whether these exemptions are time-limited, and is also not aware of any public guidelines that show how the City grants such exemptions.

Per-person floor area requirements imply that the landlord must ask intrusive questions such as whether the renters intend to share bedrooms, and make rules about how tenants use their home. Some landlords may be avoiding asking these questions. For example, one landlord said “how am I supposed to know [about bedroom-sharing arrangements]? I don’t ask.” However, other landlords have said that they do ask intrusive questions and screen people out in an effort to abide by the 7m2 requirement.

One landlord recently described having to tell a past tenant that his girlfriend couldn’t move in because the bedroom was less than 14m2, and also said she had screened out prospective tenants because of the rule:

I have had to ask intrusive questions of tenants because it appeared to me that some might share a bedroom that did not meet the 7m2 per person per bedroom (for example when a group of people wanted to rent the house and some were boyfriend/girl friend), and I had to explain that this would technically be illegal. Then when they confirmed that indeed this was their intention, to share a bedroom, along with the rest of the house, I ended up turning them away because I was concerned I would have problems with the city if the property was inspected. Then I started asking all the prospective tenants that came through to see the house how they intended on using the house.

I thought if I ask them the personal questions before they move in to the house, and I screen them this way, then at least I wouldn’t have to possibly evict someone later if the city inspected the house. Of course I didn’t want to be asking anyone questions about their personal living arrangement and relationships. This always made me feel very uncomfortable.

Under s.10 of the Residential Tenancies Act, and under Regulation 290/98 of the Ontario Human Rights Code, landlords are permitted to use a limited set of criteria when selecting prospective tenants – none of which include how many people will be sharing bedrooms.

The City states that the new bylaw does not require more intrusive landlord questioning than was required under the previous bylaw, and that:

The previous licensing by-law applied if more than three persons rented a unit who were not operating as a single housekeeping unit. The inquiry necessary to determine if a group of persons constituted a single housekeeping unit included consideration of whether they exhibited collective decision-making, whether they functioned as a cohesive unit, and what level of familiarity they had with one another, including how many people used any given bedroom. [52]

The City states that it abandoned the “single housekeeping unit” criteria in part because the test was difficult for landlords to apply and the City was concerned that some non-traditional families and other households could be improperly denied rental housing as a result.[53]

However, the bylaw’s per-person floor area requirements are being applied to all housing captured by the bylaw, not just to lodging houses. This means that tenants of most low-rise rental housing are now subject to intrusive questioning and rules about sharing bedrooms, and can potentially be excluded from housing on that basis.

Questioning people about sharing bedrooms can be discriminatory based on Code grounds such as marital status, family status and sexual orientation, as it indicates an intent to deny housing based on these grounds. It is the OHRC’s position that people should be able to share a bedroom without the scrutiny of the landlord or the City.

Exclusion from housing based on the tenants’ intention to share a bedroom could lead to human rights complaints relating to marital status, family status, sexual orientation, and possibly other grounds.

The OHRC has heard that the per-person floor area requirement of 7mhas caused landlords to limit housing opportunities for Code-protected groups, like larger families. The requirement means landlords may have to ask intrusive questions about sleeping arrangements.

The OHRC concludes that the bylaw’s per-person floor area requirements will in some cases be discriminatory. As noted in Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensingrecommendation 8:

People should be able to share a bedroom, if they choose, without the landlord or the municipality peeking through the keyhole. In fact, any related questioning or investigation could lead to human rights complaints.[54]

4.2 Minimum separation distances (MSDs)

MSDs can adversely affect Code-protected groups by restricting housing options. As noted in Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensingthe OHRC has intervened in cases with respect to minimum separation distances. One of these cases – before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario – was launched by the Dream Team, an organization that advocates for supportive housing for people with disabilities. In this case, the Dream Team challenged the City of Toronto’s minimum separation distance requirements for group homes for people with disabilities. An expert, hired by the City of Toronto to examine issues arising from the City’s imposition of minimum separation distances on group homes, said in his report that he could not find a “sound, accepted planning rationale” for those minimum separation distances and recommended that they be removed.[55]

Documents provided by the City of Waterloo show that students and older persons could be particularly affected by any decrease in the availability of lodging houses, and that minimum separation distances can act to decrease the availability of lodging houses, particularly in neighbourhoods near universities.[56] They also show that increasing the MSD in a way that limits lodging houses could increase rental prices, create an incentive for illegal lodging houses, and encourage marginal units to stay on the market because of lack of choice for students.[57]

In 2002,[58] the City recommended creating apartment buildings to alleviate the need for lodging houses. Two years later, the City increased the MSD for the most common type of lodging houses[59] to 150 metres, which significantly reduced the availability of lodging houses.

The City says that:

Between 2002 and 2010, 2,386 new apartment and triplex units were constructed in Waterloo. Since then, approximately 1,800 apartment units (representing approximately 5,600 bedrooms) have been proposed and are either under construction or are proceeding through the Site Plan or Building Permit stage. Many of these units contain 4 or 5 bedrooms. None of them are subject to the Rental Housing Licensing By-law.[60]

Even if apartment buildings make up rental spaces lost to MSD requirements, they may not provide equivalent types of accommodation, at an equivalent cost. A City document shows virtually equal student preferences for apartments (47.8%) vs. houses and/or townhouses (47.3%).[61] A group of students told the City that they preferred non-apartment housing and that the bylaw would result
in less choice.[62]

Under the City’s old lodging house regime, “residential units” that were “single housekeeping units” could be exempt from MSD requirements. This is no longer the case. As a result, some lodging houses that were operating legally in the past regardless of MSD requirements, could now fall subject to those requirements and have to stop operating (or reduce the number of renters to three[63] to be exempted from the MSD requirements).

One landlord said:

The city is using [the] bylaw as a clever way around the ruling of the Terrance Good case. They are forcing us to turn our “residential dwellings” into “lodging houses” because we need a licence under the municipal act.

Another landlord expressed concerns about the impact of MSDs:

All my properties are less than 150 metres from a licensed lodging house. Therefore I am only allowed to rent 3 bedrooms in my properties. One is a grandfathered legal non-conforming duplex, so it is legally divided into 2 units, one with 2 bedrooms and one with 3 bedrooms. The other 2 units have potentially 4 bedrooms in one and 5 bedrooms in the other, but I am only allowed to rent 3 bedrooms in each.

Another landlord told the OHRC that, in some areas, MSDs would potentially eliminate significant numbers of rental housing units, or reduce the available rooms in units, and described the impact on two 4-bedroom units:

I have a legal duplex with a limit of 3 and 3 students because of the MDS. [Previously] I was able to rent to 4 and 4 as the students came as a household. This will be reduced by the new 150 meters MDS in the licensing bylaw… even though my bedroom sizes are above the requirement for two people, and so is the 40% bedroom to floor space ratio.

This landlord said that, because of the limitation on the number of rooms, the rent per person would increase:

… the rent is $495.00 plus all utilities. Next year [in 2013] it will be $660.00 plus utilities per room with three bedrooms in the upstairs unit and the same downstairs. That still doesn’t include the cost of the licence, which for this building is at least $1600.00 and this will be added to next [year’s] rent. This is all only because of the by law.

This landlord confirmed recently that the City sent a letter saying that two tenants have to move out.

The City commented that the MSDs have been in place (with some revisions) for almost 20 years, and that:

The MDS provisions of the Zoning By-law already applied to rental units housing more than three persons. The effect of the Rental Housing By-law is to also pull in any rental housing of five or more bedrooms within certain zones. However, given that there would be an insignificant number of rental houses in these zones that have five bedrooms but are rented to three or less tenants, the City does not believe that the Rental Housing Licensing By-law has prevented any previously lawful rental property from operating because of MDS restrictions.[64]

The City went on to say:

Not one otherwise lawfully operated lodging house has been shut down by the City due to MDS restrictions – ever.[65]

While MSDs have been around for 20 years, that does not make them Code compliant. Also, the City’s reasoning does not reflect the fact that “single housekeeping units” are no longer exempt. As a result, some rental properties that were operating legally (without being subject to MSDs) may now fall under the separation requirements.

There is no justification for requiring non-apartment, non-high-rise rental units to be located a certain distance apart from one another. Arbitrary minimum separation distances that are applied to rented accommodations but not to owned homes of a similar size and type can contravene the Code. They are about regulating people, and often flow from stereotypes associated with renters. As noted in Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensinginstead of planning for inclusive neighbourhoods, minimum separation distances can limit the sites available for development and restrict the number of sites that are close to services, hurting people who are in need of housing.[66]

4.3 Different systems based on number of bedrooms

The bylaw stipulates that (except for some grandparenting exemptions) properties with more than four[67] bedrooms are not eligible for Class “A” or “B” licences, but instead must apply for a class “C” lodging house licence.

The distinction between class “A”, “B” and “C” does not appear to have any meaningful impact on minimum separation distances; they are governed by the zoning bylaws’ threshold of “more than three people.”[68]

Even though the class “A”, “B” and “C” distinctions do not appear to create disadvantages with respect to minimum separation distances, other disadvantages may arise.

For example, in a class “C” lodging house, all doors must be capable of being locked and the owner must have written leases with all people over age 16.

These requirements could disproportionately affect Code-protected groups. For example, if a couple choose to live in a class “C” lodging house, each of them must enter into a lease with the landlord. Families who live in a class “C” lodging house may face practical challenges with putting their children into rooms that are capable of being locked.

Based on the information currently before it, the OHRC cannot conclude that
the City’s practice of applying stricter requirements to units with five or more bedrooms disadvantages people because of their association with a Code ground. However, this practice may be arbitrary.[69] As noted in Room for everyone: Human rights in rental housing recommendation 6, arbitrary bedroom limitations can reduce the availability of viable housing for Code-protected groups and should be avoided.

4.4 Gross floor area requirements

As noted in Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensingrecommendation 7, floor area requirements that are more stringent than Building Code regulations could contravene the Code.

The bylaw’s ratio of bedroom space to overall floor area appears to impose a requirement that does not exist in the Building Code.

A landlord pointed out the inconsistency of this requirement being applied to some rental housing and not others:

… in one of the advertised floor plan of a highrise apartment which is exempted, the bedroom areas are 70% of the gross unit space. During the bylaw “town house” consultation there was no explanation of how this 40% rule came about.

Since grandparenting was available in some cases with respect to gross floor area requirements, the OHRC understands that the impact of this requirement
in the short term has been minimized. On the information before it, the OHRC cannot conclude that the requirement has disadvantaged people because of their association with a Code ground. The OHRC notes, however, that the situation may evolve given that grandparenting is no longer available. The OHRC also notes the City appears to be applying this requirement to low-rise rental housing, but not to high-rise rentals or to owned housing. This may call into question any health and safety rationale for the requirement. 

4.5 Bylaw-related costs

The OHRC addresses bylaw-related costs in Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensing. Specifically, it underlines that there must be a reasonable connection between the cost of the service and the amount charged, and it urges municipalities to be mindful that fees associated with licensing, if passed on to renters, might drive up the price of housing.[70]

Landlord survey respondents indicated that, because of the bylaw, rents per person or per room would be going up between $10 and $100/month, with most in the $20 – $50 range. They described rent-per-unit increases ranging from $18 to $200/month, with most in the $30 – $80 range.

A landlord recently told the OHRC that the bylaw-related fees, permit and inspection cost about $1,200, and he raised the new tenant’s rent by $100 a month to cover these costs.

According to a 2011 report, the City indicated that the bylaw would result in a $12 – $20 cost per renter.[71]


The City maintained this position in correspondence to the OHRC in 2012. It underlined that these figures assume that full costs are passed along to the tenants. The City went on to state:

It is the City’s best information that rents have remained stable across the municipality, that the vacancy rate has slightly increased, and that the number of rental units on the market has significantly increased since the Rental Housing Licensing By-law was passed in 2011.[72]

The City suggested tenants might prefer to pay slightly higher rents if this would result in safer rental units that comply with the Building Code and the Fire Code. The City has also expressed a concern that some landlords may be taking advantage of the bylaw to justify rent increases in excess of actual bylaw-related costs.[73]

Some tenants told the OHRC that they had not experienced rent increases recently; other tenants described rent increases associated with the bylaw.

While tenants have reported financial impacts relating to the bylaw, municipalities are allowed to charge fees for licensing, as long as they are proportional to the expenses of the program. The City provided data to the OHRC to show the connection between licensing fees and the costs of services provided through the licensing program. In other words, the City appears to have established that its fees are proportional to services offered.[74]

Information before the OHRC does not establish that the City’s licensing fees discriminate against people because of their association with a Code ground.

4.6 Conclusion

“In some ways I think that the bylaw is good because it will give some basic standards for the conditions that houses must be in before they can be rented. I worry that it will increase rental prices and make less people inclined to buy houses and rent them to students in the end reducing the amount of selection and quality of housing available. It is already challenging in the Fall to find accommodations around the university of Waterloo and this will likely make it harder. I also feel like this bylaw is in favour of the larger apartment style student housing which is not aesthetically pleasing and also is not exactly the type of place where many student[s] wish to live.” – A Waterloo student survey respondent

Much like this student, the OHRC concludes that there are positive and negative aspects of the rental housing licensing bylaw. The OHRC applauds the City for working towards improved safety conditions for renters, and supports bylaw provisions that are needed to ensure that safety. All housing is subject to health and safety standards such as the Building Code and Fire Code. The OHRC agrees that effectively enforcing these standards enhances tenant safety.

At the same time, certain other bylaw requirements are not justified.

Based on information before it, the OHRC has concluded that the bylaw’s per-person floor area requirements are in some cases discriminatory and are not required to meet a safety standard. They should be eliminated.

The OHRC finds that there is no justification for the minimum separation distances imposed by the City of Waterloo. Arbitrary minimum separation distances, that are applied to rented accommodations but not to similar owned homes, are about regulating people, and often flow from stereotypes associated with renters. Arbitrary separation distances can contravene the Human Rights Code, and should be eliminated.

The OHRC is concerned that there appears to be an interest on the part of the municipality in redirecting renters – especially student renters[75] – into apartments or other high-density housing and out of low-rise areas. As noted in Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensingrecommendation 5:

In accordance with the 2005 Provincial Policy Statement,[76] municipalities should provide for an appropriate range of housing types and densities required to meet projected requirements of current and future residents by, among other things, establishing and implementing minimum targets for providing housing that is affordable to low and moderate income households.

People do not have the right to choose their neighbours. Where planning decisions are made based on community opposition, or where those decisions “people zone,” those decisions could be found to be discriminatory. 

The OHRC urges the City to monitor the housing market, to make sure that the rental housing licensing bylaw does not arbitrarily limit access to low-cost rental housing, and that tenants, including students, are not experiencing displacement or difficulty finding housing because of their connection to a Code ground.

It is also essential that the City continue to educate people about the bylaw and related human rights principles to minimize the chances that Code-protected people will face displacement or difficulty finding housing, and to clear up any confusion about the licensing regime and the interaction between the different applicable bylaws. 

[48] Section of the Building Code defines a “dwelling unit” as a “suite [which in turn is defined as “a single room or series of rooms of complementary use, operated under a single tenancy…”] operated as a housekeeping unit…”

Sections and of the Building Code require the following per-bedroom (rather than per-occupant) floor areas in dwelling units:

  • 9.8 square metres for a master bedroom without built-in closets
  • 8.8 square metres for a master bedroom with built-in closets
  • 7 square metres for other bedrooms without built-in closets
  • 6 square metres for other bedrooms with built-in closets.

Section of the Building Code requires that “Sleeping rooms other than in dwelling units shall have an area not less than 7 m2 per person for single occupancy and 4.6m2 per person for multiple occupancy.” 

[49] Related/Unrelated Persons Legislation: Zoning By-law Amendments, 89-98, page 9.

[50] Letter from the City’s counsel to the OHRC, November 16, 2012.

[51] Letter from the City’s counsel to the OHRC, September 28, 2012.

[52] Letter from the City’s counsel to the OHRC, September 28, 2012.

[53] Letter from the City’s counsel to the OHRC, September 28, 2012.

[54] For a related discussion of how limitations on the number of occupants per room or bedroom can impact human rights, see Policy on human rights and rental housing, OHRC,
Part V, section 4.3.3.

[55] Sandeep K. Agrawal , Opinion on the Provisions of Group Homes in the City-wide Zoning By-Law of the City of Toronto, at pages 3 and 28, released February 28, 2013 by the City of Toronto, as a supplementary report to the Planning and Growth Management Committee, in Final Report on the City-wide Zoning By-law: Supplementary Report on Human Rights Challenge to Group Home Zoning Regulations, PG13020.

[56] “Rooming, boarding and lodging houses (RBL’s) are an important form of housing in the City of Waterloo. … In Waterloo, the off-campus university student population (estimated at 10,300 is the single largest source of demand for this type of housing. Another significant source is the City’s seniors population.” Rooming, Boarding, Lodging House Definition Review 92-16, March 13, 1992, page 1.

Regarding how MSDs are “the prime constraint to the development of more lodging houses…”, see Student Accommodation Study Discussion Paper DS04-16, March 3, 2004, page 30.

[57] Height and Density Policy Study Discussion Paper DS-02-38, 2002, page 22.

[58] Height and Density Policy Study Discussion Paper DS-02-38, 2002, page 22.

[59] Class 2 lodging houses: non-owner occupied with 4–5 occupants, which at that time made up more than 80% of lodging houses. See Student Accommodation Study Discussion Paper DS04-16, March 3, 2004, page 14.

[60] Letter from the City’s counsel to the OHRC, September 28, 2012.

[61] Height and Density Policy Study Discussion Paper DS-02-38, 2002, page10, citing a “winter” 2002 study by a University of Waterloo graduate planning student.

[62] Letter to City from a group of students, undated; Email to City, January 26, 2011.

[63] There is some lack of clarity around applying the MSD to properties that are lodging houses for the purposes of the zoning bylaw (because they have more than three people) but that are not lodging houses for the purposes of the licensing bylaw (because they have four or fewer bedrooms). For example:

  • One landlord told us that the minimum separation distance requirement limited him to renting out four rental bedrooms. (Emplasis added)
  • One landlord told us: “I have current residential dwellings with more than 4 tenantsDue to MDS they will not be able to get a licence…” (Emphasis added)
  • Another landlord said: “My property will be grandfathered into the bylaw as I will be eligible for a class D so I will not need to reduce the bedroom count immediately. However, in the future, if I lose the class D license due to the strict reapplication deadlines, I will be forced to reduce the number of bedrooms as it will be impossible for a renewal with greater than 4 bedrooms in my zoning classification.” (Emphasis added)
  • Another landlord shared her confusion: “…I can only obtain a class A licence with a max number of occupants of 3, regardless of the fact that my house has 5 bedrooms and can comfortably accommodate a large family or group of friends. I’m not sure what exactly would make it a lodging house as I believed the new system would replace the old system which granted lodging house licences. Now they are ‘class’ licenses. In any case, with the licence I can possibly be granted (the class A for 3 bedrooms since [Minimum] Distance Separation requirement applies), I will have to inquire of my tenants before renting to them, exactly how they plan on using the house, and will only be able to advertise the house accordingly. I fear the city will fine me if I don’t.” (Emphasis added).

[64] Letter from the City’s counsel to the OHRC, September 28, 2012.

[65] Letter from the City’s counsel to the OHRC, September 28, 2012.

[66] Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensing, OHRC, recommendation 9.

[67] In its 2010 draft bylaw, the City considered imposing a limitation of three bedrooms for Class “A” and “B” rental properties, based on data showing that the average “family” size in Waterloo, and median number of bedrooms per residential unit, is three. The OHRC raised concerns that averages and medians can blur real demographic and social distinctions, and affect people based on a number of Code grounds. In response to public input, the City raised the limit to four bedrooms before finalizing the bylaw.

[68] It is possible that the licensing bylaw could broaden the zoning bylaw’s definition of lodging houses, such that 5+ bedroom units that house three or fewer people are required to abide by minimum separation distances – but that seems to be a merely academic question as presumably that type of property is not at all common.

[69] The City stated “The data collected by the City supported limiting Class A and Class B rental units to three bedrooms. In response to public input, that was increased to four bedrooms.” (Letter from City Counsel to the OHRC, September 28, 2012.) While this indicates a thoughtful approach, the OHRC is not aware of information before the City which showed that 5+ bedroom houses are categorically different (and require categorically different regulation) than houses with four or fewer bedrooms.

[70] Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensing, OHRC, recommendation 13.

[71] Rental Housing By-law and Program Report No. PS-BL2011-016, May 4, 2011, page 6. The City went on to state: “assuming the monthly fee of a 3-bedroom unit is $450 per bedroom and if the landlord chooses to apply the added cost to the rent the licence fee increase would represent approximately a 2.5% to 5% increase.” 

[72] Letter from the City’s counsel to the OHRC, September 28, 2012.

[73] Letter from the City’s counsel to the OHRC, September 28, 2012.

[74] The City developed a cost recovery model over a multi-year period – from the outset of the bylaw to 2016. This model appears to have been based on an understanding that the City would experience losses in the first years of the program but profits in later years, amounting to overall cost recovery by 2016 (Report PS-BL2011-007, page 77). The OHRC recently learned that the City’s revenue in the first year of the program was higher than expected. On May 15, 2013 the City commented:

The City is obviously pleased that far more landlords have applied for licences in the first year of the rental housing licencing program than it had estimated, resulting in increased revenue – the rental housing program has had more support and voluntary participation than expected when the City made its initial projections. However, the increased number of licence holders at this early stage will also increase the projected program costs – for example, one additional person has already been hired, and consideration is being given to further staffing increases. To a large extent, this “surplus” is the result of the fact that these extra costs lag behind receipt of revenue (because annual licence fees are due up front). As such, the City recovered its costs and was at a surplus (on a cash-flow basis) for the period ending one year after the by-law came into force. Over the initial five year period, the City still expects be at a net cost recovery position, with no surplus.

… [A]t the conclusion of the second year, if the City is still at a net surplus for the program, it will be conducting a review of its licencing fees. … [A]part from any human rights considerations, the City is legally obligated not to use licence fees as a source of revenue exceeding program costs.

[75] As noted in Room for everyone: Human rights and rental housing licensing, students are protected by the Code where they experience discrimination because of their association with Code grounds such as age, marital status or receipt of public assistance.

[76] Provincial Policy Statement, Government of Ontario, 2005, section 1.4 (Housing).


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