With April 1st right around the corner, support for renters amid the COVID-19 crisis has emerged as a top concern for many Canadians. While the federal government, in conjunction with Canada’s biggest banks, has announced some support for mortgagers, there has been nothing of the sort extended to renters.

Provincial governments have, in a way, taken the lead on how to assist the nearly 4.4 million Canadians living in rental housing.

Ontario and Quebec, for their part, have suspended evictions for the time being. Yet, no government has introduced measures that would give tenants some leniency on their rents. Despite calls for a moratorium on rent payments, provincial governments have adopted a different approach: asking landlords to be nice.

Premiers Horgan and Kenney have both pursued this approach. “Landlords need to be able to continue to protect the value of their property from bad tenants,” says Kenney. The Premier also called on landlords to “do the right thing and wherever possible extend rent relief during this difficult time to their tenants.”

Relying on landlords to act in good faith, however, is not a real policy response.

While there are some encouraging stories of landlords doing the right thing, these stories are the exception and not the norm. In times of financial uncertainty, it is not surprising that property owners will squeeze every last dime they can for the rainy days ahead.

Landlords, after all, are not the most benevolent type. In places where rent-gouging is permitted, they can take this pandemic as an opportunity to push out tenants and increase rents.

Canadians are losing their incomes and jobs. The spectre of a pandemic already looms over their heads. Now throw in the added stress of possibly losing their home and you have a recipe for disaster.


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