Renters vs. Owners: A False Dichotomy

I’m proud to say that I own the house I live in.

I’m also proud to say that I spent many years renting an apartment.

There is a common view among different renters and homeowners, that renting is somehow a subordinate form of paying for one’s living space, even though owning entails often burdensome responsibilities such as seemingly endless mortgage payments, property taxes, maintenance costs, insurance, etc.

That said, I do believe that ownership brings greater freedom and would love to see renters own their own property; it would give them a sense of empowerment and pride – even as stressful as that can sometimes be. The only thing is, renters’ current cost of living and future financial ability to own a home (or lack thereof), has nothing to do with established homeowners – this is true socially, fiscally and historically.

Ward 4 city council candidate Jesse Helmer’s fair tax proposal is anything but. It merely passes the buck from property management companies and the provincial and federal governments to homeowners.

Gigantic property management companies such as Lionheart, conduct business by making money for the services and living space they provide – this is true in several cities including Toronto. That’s fine, and I have no problem with that.

But if London homeowners wind up paying 5.37% more in property taxes, as Helmer is proposing, they’re not only going to be subsidizing renters’ costs, but will become de facto sponsors of huge property management companies. I just don’t see how that is fair or makes any sense at all.

When people struggle to make ends meet, and then wind up spending 85% of their earnings on housing that is sometimes substandard, there’s no question that’s a serious problem. But that problem wasn’t created or sponsored by homeowners, and therefore, they have absolutely no obligation or reason to somehow back renters – their property taxes, etc. already fund programs and infrastructure that renters and everyone else, benefits from.

Normally, landlords raise the rent according to inflation, which is set by Stats Canada. However, a landlord can ask for a special increase when ‘major repairs’ are required; of course, proof must be provided by the landlord. A tenant has recourse to challenge the rent increase by going to the Landlord Tenant Board. Again, this is just another indication that the issues renters face, are between the property managers and renters – homeowners are not part of this dynamic. And if major repairs are approved of, and the rent is raised, Helmer’s proposed tax raise won’t only be unfair, it will be useless.

The rental problem occurs when families or individuals are either underemployed, on social assistance or on a disability pension or old age pension. These kinds of income do not keep up with inflation.

I think the solution should be based on a two-pronged approach: generating sustainable employment opportunities within the ward and the entire city, and more subsidized housing for the working poor (this program existed provincially a few years back).

The focus in this city needs to be on employment. The issue about raising rents has no correlation to home owners/property values.

Like many other North American cities, London has lost well-paying semi-skilled jobs, and we need to focus on long-term solutions that will empower everyone, whether renters or owners.

As I said, I’m all for rent supplement when it’s needed on a case by case basis. I’m also in favour of subsidy programs for young families with minority-age children, or the disabled, as examples. But these types of assistance have traditionally been under the purview of the federal and provincial governments.

The fact that such programs have been minimized or abandoned, once again, has nothing to do with homeowners, who pay their fair share of taxes to support the infrastructure of the city through schools, roads, etc.

Moreover, property ownership does not influence the market value of rentals, so why should I, and all the other homeowners, subsidize a situation that I have no connection with? It can’t be because I own property…if anything, that would exempt me from the equation because I am in a completely different sphere where I am the owner AND the property manager.

So, either it’s an argument about welfare payouts being too low, or that there’s not enough subsidized housing (programs), or that long-term employment solutions need to be created. The bottom line is that homeowners have nothing to do with this.

A good degree of tension exists between renting vs. owning, but one thing is clear: absolutely no issues exist between renters and owners.

I, for one, would like to keep it that way.



One thought on “Renters vs. Owners: A False Dichotomy

  1. Pingback: Vote For Vision | vote4vision

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