Calls intensify for freeze on housing costs

Ontario and BC announce eviction moratorium, but federal government does not follow

Calls intensify for freeze on housing costs

The recent announcement by the nation’s six largest banks that they are offering six-month deferrals on mortgage payments to help homeowners impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak is bringing a new call for financial assistance for the nation’s renters.

Marva Burnett, president of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) Canada, called on the federal government to put a temporary moratorium on rent that would mirror the aid homeowners are getting.

“ACORN thinks the government should put the rent freeze on, a total rent freeze,” Burnett said in an interview with “The people who are going to suffer the most are the renters, the lower-income people of Canada.”

Burnett added that the temporary freeze concept should also be applied to installment loans and payday lending.

“All these things need to be taken into consideration because it’s mostly upper-income people that have a mortgage, lower-income people have installment loans to pay,” she said.

Calls for a national freeze on both mortgage and rental payments to assist Canadians struggling during the ongoing pandemic were recently made by the British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) and United Steelworkers, while an independent petition on seeking these freezes has collected approximately 540,000 signatures as of Friday evening.

To date, the federal and provincial governments have not acknowledged calls for any type of freeze on housing expenses. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s $27 billion proposal for direct financial support to Canadians could be used by renters to pay their landlords, but the proposal did not include a moratorium on evictions. British Columbia announced a freeze on evictions on March 19, but that only covered tenants in subsidized and affordable housing, while Ontario had its own freeze announced the same day covering both residential and commercial properties.

"We don’t want you to worry about your job. We also don’t want you to worry about how you’re going to make rent this month," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford. "That’s why I’ve directed that all eviction orders be suspended until further notice. We want to make sure you and your family can stay in your home during this difficult time. So, you can put your health and the health of others first."