A proposal to legalize rooming houses across the City was deferred for further study, avoiding a vote that was too close to call and which would have divided Council mostly along geographic lines. The proposal to legalize was supported mostly by councillors representing the downtown and, with few exceptions, opposed by those from North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke, where they are not now permitted.
Although John strongly favours more affordable housing options, he was not intending to support the proposal to allow rooming houses as of right on any residential property in the City. Although proponents of the plan spoke of the benefits of creating a legal option for what already exists, there was nothing in the proposal that would make it any easier to successfully prosecute illegal operators, and John thought it unlikely that those operators would voluntarily switch to a regime which would limit numbers and require capital investment.
John's amendment to look at ways for all levels of government to work together to provide more student housing was adopted, as were other amendments requesting the Province to allow City inspectors to enter suspected illegal rooming houses. Rooming houses outside the downtown are mostly populated by students, and the inability to gain entry is the primary reason why the City is unable to gain evidence which could be used in Court to provide evidence against illegal and unsafe operators.
Rooming houses are defined as buildings with four or more rooms, with a shared washroom and/or kitchen, rented out to individuals by the room. There is nothing currently preventing a group of people renting a home together or stopping a homeowner from renting out up to three individual rooms.
On main streets such as Sheppard or Finch, anyone wishing to build small, affordable units with small washrooms and kitchens would be permitted to do so by applying for a rezoning.
Currently, any house can contain two units, and John is working on a plan to allow more units in homes in specified areas, as part of a public planning review of the area north of Cummer/Drewry, between Lariviere Road and Willowdale Avenue.