Toronto tenants are pushing back against a big rental increase

Mar 14 2022, 4:58 pm

Tenants of an East York apartment building are pushing back after their landlord applied for Above Guidelines Increase (AGI).

Residents of 130 Gowan Avenue say that a 4.2% rent increase, 3% higher than what is allowable in Ontario, could force many of them out of the building. Rent increases above 1.2% in 2022 must be approved by the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board.

AGIs allow landlords to raise rent to shift the costs of repairs and renovations to tenants. An authorized AGI means a landlord could increase the rent by 3% above the allowable amount for three years in a row.

Starlight Investments applied for the AGI in December, and residents have been using various means to fight back. They are now calling on PSP Investments, a Crown corporation that invests in public servants’ pension funds, to withdraw the AGI. PSP Investments owns 130 Gowan through Starlight Investments.

PSP Investments did not respond to requests for comment from Daily Hive by the time of publication.

Now, tenants are hanging banners over their balconies to bring attention to the 4.2% rent increase.

It’s not just tenants who are unhappy about the AGI. A union representing 160,000 federal public service workers who contribute to the Federal Public Service Pension Fund is also calling for the AGI to be withdrawn.

“An AGI, particularly in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, would prove an enormous financial challenge for these individuals,” the letter reads.

Craig Reynolds, the Ontario regional vice-president of Public Service Alliance Canada (PSAC), called for PSP Investments to tell Starlight Investments to withdraw the AGI immediately.

“Allowing this situation to continue would invite significant material risk and would appear to the PSAC membership as being inconsistent with the legal and fiduciary obligations of PSP Investments to the participants and beneficiaries of the Federal Public Service Pension Plan,” the letter said.

The letter said that Starlight Investments had applied for more AGIs than any other landlord in Toronto between 2012 to 2019.

The tenants of 130 Gowan Avenue say they are willing to pay the authorized 1.2% rent increase. According to the letter, many residents in the building are on fixed incomes and could not accommodate a 4.2% increase.

In Ontario, rents were frozen during a portion of the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping 2021 rents in line with 2020, but that came to an end in 2021.

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