The City licenses multi-tenant houses, commonly known as rooming houses, 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 as they were not updated after amalgamation. 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 in the former cities of Toronto and Etobicoke require a licence, whereas a licence is not required in the former city of York.

The City is proposing the creation of a comprehensive city-wide zoning approach and enhancements to licensing and enforcement to encourage and regulate safe, liveable, well-maintained and affordable multi-tenant houses across the city.

The proposed regulatory framework has five 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
  5. Phased Implementation Plan

Public consultation on the proposed regulatory framework was held in April and May 2021. The feedback received from different rounds of consultations informed a final recommendations report with recommended zoning bylaw amendments and a new regulatory bylaw for multi-tenant houses, which was considered at the June 28, 2021 meeting of the Planning and Housing Committee and adopted with amendments. City Council considered this item at its July 14, 2021 and October 1 – 4, 2021 meetings. In October 2021, City Council referred the item back to the City staff and requested that staff undertake additional work and report back to the Planning and Housing Committee on a wide-range of items.

The report and the decisions of Committee and Council are available online.

The draft zoning bylaw amendments may be viewed at the links below:

The report builds on the proposed regulatory framework originally considered by the Planning and Housing Committee on November 17, 2020.

City staff invited the public and key stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed regulatory framework in April and May 2021, through the following initiatives:

  • Virtual community meetings held May 4 and May 11. View a copy of the meeting presentation.
  • Virtual workshops with key stakeholder groups such as tenants, owners and operators of multi-tenant houses, and housing-related organizations
  • A questionnaire that could be completed online or by phone
  • A Do-it-Yourself (DIY) Meeting Toolkit and grant program to encourage community groups to hold their own virtual workshop or consultation

Discussion of what was heard in the consultation, and staff’s responses can be found throughout the staff report and in the Community Engagement Summary Report produced by LURA Consulting. The Community Engagement Summary Report can be read by clicking on the links below:

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What is multi-tenant housing?

A multi-tenant house, commonly known as a rooming house, is where four or more people rent individual rooms as their main living accommodation and share a kitchen and/or washroom. Because tenants in multi-tenant houses pay rent for individual dwelling rooms rather than self-contained dwelling units, multi-tenant houses are an important part of the affordable rental housing market. They provide single-room accommodation to diverse tenants including students, seniors, new immigrants and low/moderate income residents.

Learn more about multi-tenant houses and how they are regulated in Toronto.

Why do we need a regulatory framework for multi-tenant housing?

The existing zoning and licensing regulations for multi-tenant houses in Toronto are inconsistent among the former municipalities as they were not updated after amalgamation. Currently, multi-tenant houses are only permitted in the former City of Toronto and some parts of the former Cities of York and Etobicoke. Only multi-tenant houses in the former Cities of Toronto and Etobicoke are subject to a licensing regime. Outside of these areas, the City cannot use licensing tools to protect the health and safety of tenants and to ensure well-managed housing.

What is the objective of the proposed zoning approach?

The objective of the proposed zoning approach is to establish a fair and appropriate framework to permit and regulate multi-tenant houses across the city, ensuring that tenants have equitable access to affordable, adequate, safe, accessible and secure homes.

The city-wide strategy for multi-tenant houses is the first City of Toronto policy to be developed using a human rights lens since the adoption of the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan. The Action Plan included the adoption of a new Toronto Housing Charter that recognizes the progressive realization to the right to adequate housing.

Where are multi-tenant houses proposed to be permitted?

Multi-tenant houses would be permitted in all zones in Zoning Bylaw 569-2013 that permit residential uses. This proposal would expand permissions for multi-tenant houses across Toronto’s residential and mixed-use areas.

What kind of buildings can be multi-tenant housing?

Regardless of the building type, the use would be considered a multi-tenant house if there are more than three dwelling rooms. While a multi-tenant house may be located in the same building as other uses, the term does not apply to a room available for rent in a student residence, long-term care home or other institutional accommodation.

How many rooms will be permitted in a multi-tenant house?

It is proposed that most residential neighbourhoods (those zoned RD, RS and RT) will have a maximum of six dwelling rooms in a multi-tenant house.

In higher density and apartment zones (RA, RAC and some RM zones) a maximum of 12 dwelling rooms is proposed, and in mixed use zones (CR and CRE) the proposed maximum number of dwelling rooms is 25. No change is proposed in the R zone which currently allows for six or 12 dwelling rooms, depending on location.

How was this engagement process different from the previous multi-tenant housing consultations?

The public consultations held in April and May 2021 built on previous consultations and were the first time that staff consulted on a zoning approach that includes city-wide permissions and zone-specific regulations.

In 2015, consultations discussed challenges and opportunities of multi-tenant housing, with no specifics in terms of a city-wide zoning proposal. In 2017, consultations were held on a proposal for five pilot areas, including temporary zoning use permissions, and standards such as seven room maximum. In 2019, City staff conducted a third round of consultations to further refine the proposed improved licensing regime.

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