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. 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 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

Download a handout on the proposed framework.

Public consultation on the proposed regulatory framework was held in April and May 2021. The feedback received will be used to inform a staff report to the Planning and Housing Committee in mid-2021 with recommended zoning by-law amendments and a new regulatory by-law for multi-tenant houses.

Complete details of the proposed regulatory framework are available in a staff report on Creating the Regulatory and Compliance Framework for Multi-Tenant Houses across Toronto which was considered by the Planning and Housing Committee on November 17, 2020.

Enhanced operator licensing requirements

The City is recommending a new and enhanced framework for the licensing and regulation of all multi-tenant houses. The proposed framework is intended to improve the living conditions for tenants, streamline applicable regulations to help operators better understand and comply with expected standards, and support neighbourhood integration.

The City is also looking at additional requirements for personal-care multi-tenant houses, which provide support services such as housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation and medication storage.

Enforcement and compliance program

This will include a four-pillar approach:

  1. Inter-divisional efforts, made up of a dedicated Municipal Licensing and Standards Team (MLS) enforcement team along with Toronto Fire Services, Toronto Building, Toronto Public Health and staff from other divisions as needed.
  2. Education and outreach to identify unlicensed operators and notify them of bylaw requirements, and to provide education and support for tenants, operators, owners and communities on the process to submit a complaint.
  3. Compliance strategy including annual inspections of licensed multi-tenant houses and investigations of unlicensed operators.
  4. Enforcement strategy including increased fines, modernized housing tribunal and remedial action.

City-wide zoning strategy

The proposed zoning approach would establish city-wide permissions for multi-tenant houses with zone-specific regulations on maximum number of rooms, minimum parking, and minimum number of washrooms. This approach would also introduce harmonized definitions, applicable across all of Toronto, for “multi-tenant house” and “dwelling room” to provide consistency and fairness in permissions and be straightforward to administer.

Supporting tenants and maintaining housing affordability

The new framework will require that operators conform with the City’s licensing requirements, which in some cases would require renovation work. While the work would be necessary to ensure occupant safety, there is the potential for significant cost impacts on some operators. The City is taking the following actions to mitigate against these costs and increase certainty in the building permit process:

  • Toronto Building is developing a package of compliance options for operators to choose from to meet the Ontario Building Code requirements.
  • Housing Secretariat is looking at ways to support tenants’ safety and security by maintaining affordability of multi-tenant houses. This includes incentive programs for eligible landlords to undertake building retrofits.

As part of a right to housing approach, it is critical to ensure that City actions do not result in a person becoming homeless. There may be instances where the City will need to shut down homes that are unsafe or not complying with regulations. The City can shut down unsafe homes under the existing bylaws and legislation. To support tenants that may be affected, the City will:

  • work with City divisions and community agencies to ensure that tenants have a place to go – a shelter or temporary accommodation
  • provide information to tenants on community and government supports to find alternative housing and rent supports if needed

City staff invited the public and key stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed regulatory framework in April and May 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

Feedback gained through this process will build on previous consultations that were held in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

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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 By-law 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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