Residential Evictions Allowed to Resume in Parts of Ontario This Week
With Ontario’s state of emergency expiring Tuesday evening, the Ford government will begin lifting public health restrictions, including stay-at-home orders, in three regions of Eastern Ontario. This means residential evictions can resume in these regions on Wednesday, with restart dates for the rest of the province slated for the coming weeks.
Under Ontario’s state of emergency, the Ford government implemented a temporary ban on residential evictions in January, marking the province’s second during the pandemic.
Given the eviction halt is only in place as long as a region is under a stay-at-home order, eviction enforcement can resume in the following regions on February 10: Hastings-Prince Edward; Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington; and Renfrew County and District.
The stay-at-home order will then be lifted in an additional 28 public health units on February 16 and in Toronto, Peel, and York regions as early as February 22 — when eviction enforcement can resume. Once the stay-at-home order is lifted the regions will subsequently be placed in the appropriate colour-coded category in the existing reopening framework.
However, provincial officials cautioned on Monday that final decisions for certain regions will be subject to a review of the trends in public health indicators at that time and that an “emergency brake” could be applied if COVID-19 cases surge again or if its health care system risks becoming overwhelmed.
If this occurs, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with the local medical officer of health, may advise immediately moving a region into Grey-Lockdown to interrupt transmission.
While we are seeing daily numbers trend in the right direction, it means that the government has the power to reintroduce residential evictions, a move that could increase the risk of virus spread, according to the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations (FMTA).
Geordie Dent of FMTA told Toronto Storeys these changes mean more misery for tenants and more COVID-19 deaths.
“CDC analysis in the US found that lifting of eviction moratoriums lead to “an average of 433,700 cases and 10,700 deaths,” so this is going to kill more people, spread COVID more and prolong the lockdown — it’s just not clear by how much.”
“On the misery front, CMHC estimated about 11 percent of Toronto was in arrears as of last fall (which lined up with industry surveys from April and May), which, extrapolated to the entire province would equal to evictions of about 400K tenants,” said Dent.
“There are tent communities in almost every major urban park in Ontario right now. So it’s probably the worst eviction crisis the province has faced since colonization.”
The eviction moratorium is tied to the Emergency Declaration. Currently, this means that evictions, and the spreading of COVID and misery that come with them, begin again next week. #onpoli #TOpoli https://t.co/61Fii3P2UU
— FMTA (@TorontoTenants) February 5, 2021
Dent says rather than moving forward with the evictions, there are other options the province could consider, with the best alternative being ending evictions to ensure people can isolate themselves as a way to fight COVID-19.
“In addition, there are options to minimize disruption coming out of COVID — rent forgiveness that could be based off of landlord need, rent relief programs that could be based off of tenant need, and long term repayment plans,” added Dent.
NDP Tenant Rights and Housing critic Jessica Bell (University—Rosedale) said with mass evictions set to begin, the province needs a clear ban on evictions and support for those who have lost income because of COVID-19.
“Families all over the province have lost their income, their job, or their business through no fault of their own as a result of the pandemic,” said Bell.
“They’re still in the thick of this pandemic, and it’s not safe to force people to find shelter, apartment hunt, crash with friends or family, or survive on the street while the virus is still running rampant. It’s putting people at risk of catching and spreading COVID-19. Yet, Ford fired the starting gun on evictions Monday,” Bell said.
Bell added the eviction ban was full of loopholes, but Ford should be fixing it, not “scrapping it.”
For those who have lost income due to the pandemic, Bell says a rent subsidy and legislated eviction ban are “absolutely as necessary as ever.”
NDP leader Andrea Horwath says that the Ford government is sending a “dangerous message” with its decision to lift the state of emergency and to begin gradually lifting public health restrictions in some regions.
“People deserve hope that this time, when we open, we’re opening for good,” said Horwath. “We’ve been stuck in a cycle of one step forward and two steps back. We’re paying the price because Doug Ford keeps making the same mistakes again and again.”