Multi-Tenant Houses

Credit: City of Toronto

Multi-Tenant (Rooming) Houses

Multi-tenant houses (commonly known as rooming houses) are found today in certain parts of the city as part of the rental housing stock. The City licenses these multi-tenant houses (MTHs) to ensure that they are safe and well-maintained.

The existing zoning and licensing regulations for multi-tenant houses in Toronto are inconsistent among the former municipalities. Currently, multi-tenant houses are only permitted in the former city of Toronto and some parts of the former cities of York and Etobicoke

Multi-tenant houses include Personal Care houses that provide meals and additional support services to residents, such as housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation and medication storage. These houses are often supported by Habitat Services.

In November, 2020, staff were directed to conduct city-wide public and stakeholder engagement on a new proposed regulatory framework. Staff were proposing the creation of a comprehensive city-wide zoning approach and enhancements to licensing and enforcement across the city (adding all of York and Etobicoke, Scarborough, North York, Leaside and East York).

The proposed regulatory framework had four parts:

  1. Enhanced operator licensing requirements to promote health and safety
  2. An enforcement and compliance program
  3. City-wide zoning standards that permit the use across the city, and
  4. Initiatives to support tenants and maintain affordability of housing

Read about Multi-tenant Housing and the four parts of the Framework.

Public consultation on the proposed regulatory framework took place in April and May 2021. A questionnaire was also made available.

The City-Wide Framework for Multi-Tenant (Rooming) Houses Presentation was used at the various Workshops. The Implementation Plan consisted of:

A first phase to bring existing operators into compliance; to include expansion of a dedicated enforcement team to continue enforcement and compliance work within the currently licensed multi-tenant housing stock and unlicensed areas.

A second phase to provide an opportunity for new operators to apply for licences to allow for a gradual phasing and for City staff to work towards implementation.

Zoning by-law amendments and a new licensing by-law for multi-tenant houses were proposed to take effect on Nov 1, 2022.

A significant number of residents’ organizations attended one or more Workshops. As heard at the Workshops, there are many ongoing issues with illegal and unlicensed MTHs within both zoned and unzoned areas. These houses present real and potential safety issues for the tenants, many of whom may not be able to advocate for better housing themselves.

A Final Report was scheduled to be presented at the June 28, 2021 meeting of the Planning and Housing Committee (PHC). The recommendations by the PHC would then go to City Council on July 14/15.

On June 8, 2021, the City Clerk issued a Notice of Public Meeting to be held at the Planning Housing Committee. The Notice advised that detailed information regarding the proposed zoning by-law amendments and the new Municipal Act could be obtained by contacting City Planning; that the draft zoning by-law amendments would be available to the public starting June 15, 2021 on the project webpage; and that the required Public Meeting would be held at the Planning and Housing Committee meeting on June 28, 2021.

The Multi-Tenant Housing issue was reviewed at the Planning Housing Committee on June 28, 2021. The meeting also served as the Public Consultation for the proposed zoning by-law amendments and the new Municipal Act.

The Report for Action, dated June 15, 2021 was presented by the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning including a revised phased and multi-year Implementation Plan.

Year 1:  Laying the Foundation (Sep 2021 – Nov 2022)
Year 2:  Launch of New By-laws with a Focus on Existing Operators (Nov 2022-Nov 2023)
Year 3:  Focus of Licensing to New Operators (Nov 2023-Nov 2024)

The Report was supported by a number of Attachments including:

Motions were also submitted by Councillor Wong-Tam to re-evaluate and submit an enhanced funding request needed in the 2022 budget process; to call for annual reporting throughout the implementation period to PHC with defined inclusions; and to provide information about active and inactive multi-tenant houses through the Open Data Portal. Councillor Bailao’s motions called for discussion with The Sorority and Fraternity Association of Toronto; and for the provision of a supplemental report to the July 14, 2021 City Council meeting for advance hiring possibilities, additional 311 and parking enforcement resources and approaches to limit overseas investors/operators and corporations to ensure that housing prices do not become even more unaffordable for families. FoNTRA submitted their letter on June 25, 2021 along with a separate list of questions regarding the implementation of the Multi-Tenant Housing Report.

The Planning and Housing Committee approved the motions for the expansion of zoning to permit Multi-Tenant Houses across all city neighbourhoods, despite many letters submitted by federations (CORRA, FoNTRA, FoSTRA), individual Residents Associations, as well as residents and over 50 speakers! 

Agenda Item PH25.10 was discussed by City Council on July 15, 2021. A Supplementary Report dated July 13, 2021 was submitted in accordance with the directives from the June 28, 2021 Planning and Housing Committee meeting.

Many Councillors spoke in opposition to the Multi-Tenant House proposal, as put forward. Recognizing that a motion to pass the proposal would Fail, Mayor Tory put forward a motion to Defer the item to the next City Council meeting on Oct. 1.

The Multi-Tenant Houses Agenda Item was brought forward to City Council on Oct 4, 2021. Mayor Tory put a motion forward calling for the City Manager to work with Planning, Housing Secretariat and Communications to report back to the Planning and Housing Committee in 2022 on the following:

  1. the feasibility of requiring a parking plan for all newly licensed multi-tenant housing and implementing a parking rate of 0.5 parking spaces per dwelling room in areas where multi-tenant house permissions are introduced;
  2. the feasibility and impact of eliminating the 12 and 25 dwelling room standards in areas where permissions for multi-tenant housing permissions are introduced;
  3. a plan to study land economics related to multi-tenant housing permissions;
  4. an enhanced enforcement staffing plan;
  5. the feasibility of increasing the right of entry powers of Municipal Licensing and Standards enforcement staff with respect to enforcing multi-tenant housing regulations;
  6. a plan to address potential oversea investors/operators and corporations and ensure operators are locally accountable;
  7. the feasibility and legality of limiting the number of multi-tenant housing licenses issued per year and per ward; 
  8. a plan to regularly report on the multi-tenant housing program once in place;
  9. public consultation that proactively reaches out to residents and resident groups to provide information on the history of and proposed regulations for Multi-Tenant Housing in areas where multi-tenant housing permissions would be introduced, using a variety of consultation tools, including multi-language support;
  10. public opinion research commissioned in areas of the City where multi-tenant housing is not permitted, to understand residents’ concerns, and the input this research has had on new draft regulations;
  11. a communications plan that would follow the approval of the city-wide regulatory framework for multi-tenant houses that would include strategies to reach residents in areas where new zoning permissions for multi-tenant housing are introduced;
  12. consultation with fraternities and sororities regarding their housekeeping unit organization, tenure of members or other concerns; and
  13. an exploration of options to create more types of student housing, especially on main streets near post-secondary institutions.

The Motion passed by a Vote of 22 to 3. The item is now referred back to Staff for further review and reporting back to the Planning and Housing Committee in 2022.

Contact Information

Please see the Regulatory & Compliance Framework for Multi-Tenant (Rooming) Houses Across Toronto