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Toronto apartment buildings should provide relief from extreme heat, report recommends

Last Updated May 4, 2018 at 6:48 am EST

Following the winter storm in April, it’s evident Toronto faces unseasonable weather now and then. Because of this, there’s heat being put on the city to make changes to a bylaw, some say is confusing.

“Our bylaw isn’t good enough. It’s confusing. It doesn’t do the job well,” city councillor Josh Matlow said.

“If it was doing the job, we wouldn’t have this crisis every single season.”

Back in September 2017, the City of Toronto experienced a heatwave that brought on unbearable temperatures just days before the start of fall.

Yet some landlords reportedly cut the air conditioning and turned on the heat, as a city heat bylaw took effect mandating landlords to maintain temps at 21 C in units.

Several city councillors made public pleas, asking landlords to turn the heat off during the soaring temperatures.

On Friday, the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee will be accepting a report on extreme heat in apartment buildings.

According to the document, it is reported that only six per cent of the city’s apartment buildings in the city have air conditioning.

There are five recommendations set out by the committee that will be reviewed. Among them, that a working group is established strategies that would address indoor temperatures.

That committee will also review whether it it’s ‘feasible’ to require apartment buildings to take additional steps in either providing air-conditioned spaces or undergo renovations to accommodate tenants during extreme weather conditions.

There are also recommendations to make amendments to the heating bylaw that would communicate to landlords to use judgement when turning the heat on and off, as the Sept. 15 to June 1 dates aren’t set in stone.

“We have to make sure that the rental buildings are able to step up and provide either heating or cooling for their tenants. We also have to make sure we assist them in retrofitting themselves and allow them to retrofit,” Jim Karygiannis, councillor for Scarborough-Agincourt, explained.

“That also needs a conversation with the provincial and federal government.”

Coun. Karygiannis said many of these rental buildings are 50 to 60 years olds and may require a lot of work, and to avoid passing the bill on to tenants, governments at all levels need to be involved.

Coun.Matlow calls the report timid and that staff needs to be more aggressive in responding to this growing need.

“Every time I’ve gone to the city of Toronto asking them for support to revise the bylaw, candidly, I’ve seen feet drag and that’s not good enough,” Matlow said.

“My hopes is that the City of Toronto will take more aggressive action on providing a better bylaw.”

Just last week, Coun. Matlow introduce a separate emergency motion that is before council for debate.

Among the recommendations — heat alert days be established, meaning landlords would be directed to either turn the heat off or turn the air conditioning on to ensure the temperature in the units are reasonable encourage buildings to allow for safe window openings, and to make revisions to the heat bylaw.

“What I really believe we should do is make sure there’s a standard where we don’t allow apartment buildings to go over a certain temperature, and if they do, landlords need to do something about it,” Matlow explained.

“Whether it be getting the heat off, or providing air conditioning, allow for a certain portion of a window to open.”

In a statement to CityNews, Mayor John Tory’s Office said he’s confident staff’s recommendations would help to improve the bylaw.

“(The mayor) understands the frustration many tenants experience when it comes to the temperature of their unit,” a spokesperson said in an email.

“The recommendations, if approved by committee and council, would also ensure tougher penalties for landlords who are caught breaking the existing rules.”

The committee’s report recommends that the maximum fine be increased from $5,000 to $100,000.