Starting March 31, 2024, all operators of multi-tenant (rooming) houses will be required to obtain a licence. Until then, the current restrictions on multi-tenant houses
Multi-tenant (rooming) houses are an important part of Toronto’s rental housing stock. They come in a wide range of forms and are home to a diverse array of residents, including newcomers, students, seniors and those with low-and-moderate incomes.
The pathway to achieving safe, liveable and affordable multi-tenant houses starts with changing the City’s zoning and licensing bylaws, which then enables regulatory oversight and effective enforcement.
On December 14, 2022, Toronto City Council adopted a new regulatory framework for multi-tenant houses resulting in an amendment to the City’s Zoning Bylaw to permit multi-tenant houses across Toronto. A new Multi-Tenant Houses Licensing Bylaw was also adopted, and will introduce consistent standards, regulatory oversight, and enforcement to help protect the safety of tenants and respond to neighbourhood concerns.
Current Rules for Multi-Tenant Houses (in force until March 30, 2024)
Multi-tenant houses are not currently permitted in some areas of the city. This is reflective of the numerous zoning bylaws for the former municipalities that have not been updated since amalgamation in 1998. Currently, multi-tenant houses are only permitted in the former city of Toronto and some parts of the former cities of York and Etobicoke.
The Zoning Bylaw contains a Rooming House Overlay that identifies the areas across the city where multi-tenant houses are permitted, subject to conditions:
- former city of Toronto (Areas B1, B2, and B3)
- some areas of the former city of Etobicoke (Area A1) and
- some areas of the former city of York (Area C1)
The Rooming House Overlay can be viewed using the Zoning Bylaw interactive map to see where multi-tenant houses are currently permitted and the relevant conditions.
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.
New Regulatory Framework (in force as of March 31, 2024)
The new regulatory framework will help create safe, adequate multi-tenant houses, expanding affordable housing options in Toronto. It will also help support more complete and equitable communities with a range of housing opportunities for different incomes and needs.
A Guide for Operators and more details about the rules in the new framework will be available in the coming months.
Key points of the new framework include:
- Enabling City-wide zoning permissions and associated standards for multi-tenant houses across the city, including limits on the maximum number of rooms permitted in multi-tenant houses
- Enhanced licensing requirements for multi-tenant house operators that promote health and safety, including property maintenance requirements, compliance with the Ontario Building Code and Ontario Fire Code, and new standards for personal care multi-tenant houses
- A strategic enforcement and compliance program that ensures effective enforcement through a dedicated enforcement team, annual inspections, increased fines, a modernized multi-tenant housing tribunal, and other enforcement tools.
- Initiatives to support tenants and maintain affordability of housing, including a Housing-at-Risk Table, aimed to mitigate the loss of affordable rental housing and support tenants who face evictions.
- Comprehensive communications and stakeholder engagement strategy, including education and outreach to owners, operators, tenants and communities.
Zoning highlights of the new regulatory framework
- Dwelling Room: a room used as non-self-contained living accommodation that is available for rent. A dwelling room may contain private washrooms or cooking facilities, but not both.
- Multi-tenant house: a building with four or more dwelling rooms that may have shared common facilities for sanitary (washroom) and cooking (kitchen facilities).
Location of permitted multi-tenant houses:
- Multi-tenant houses will be permitted in all zones that permit residential uses (subject to conditions)
- Multi-tenant houses can be built specifically for this use, or they can be converted from an existing residential house, as long as they comply with standards for each zone
Maximum number of rooms in a multi-tenant house:
- In the former cities of Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough, the maximum number of rooms permitted in a multi-tenant house is six.
- In the former cities of Toronto, East York and York, the maximum number of dwelling rooms in a multi-tenant house depends on where the building is located:
- Six rooms are permitted in low-density residential zones—the Residential Detached (RD), Residential Semi-Detached (RS), Residential Townhouse (RT) and most Residential Multiple (RM) zones;
- Six or 12 rooms are permitted in the Residential (R) zone, depending on location—the former city of Toronto will see no change to the maximum number of rooms compared to current permissions;
- 12 rooms are permitted in higher density residential zones—the Residential Apartment (RA), Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) and some Residential Multiple (RM) zones; and
- 25 rooms are permitted in mixed use zones—the Commercial Residential (CR) and Commercial Residential Employment (CRE) zones.
The following map shows the maximum number of rooms that will be permitted in multi-tenant houses in Toronto, effective March 31, 2024.
Minimum room size:
- The minimum room size would be regulated by the Ontario Building Code.
- The parking requirements under the new zoning bylaw for multi-tenant houses, are based on transit access.
- For areas well-served by transit, and the former city of Toronto, the new parking requirement would be zero spaces for a multi-tenant house.
- For all other areas, the new minimum requirements would be two parking spaces for a multi-tenant house with six rooms (the calculation is 0.34 spaces/dwelling room).
- These are simply minimum requirements; more parking spaces could be provided if desired.
Implementation Timeline for the New Framework
The framework will be implemented over a three-year period, beginning in January 2023 and continuing to March 2026, to gradually expand zoning and licensing and introduce incentive programs for operators:
- In 2023, the focus will be on building the regulatory framework and program, as well as educating operators, tenants and communities on the new requirements that will be coming into effect.
- The city-wide zoning and licensing bylaws will come into effect on March 31, 2024 and will focus on transitioning existing licensed operators to the new framework, identifying unlicensed multi-tenant houses to be licensed, and taking enforcement action against operators that pose a life safety risk to tenants or the community.
- In 2025, the City will focus on outreach to new operators to apply for licences and on monitoring the impacts on housing affordability and tenants.
Learn more about the staff report that outlines the complete framework and the Council decision.
History of Public Consultations for the New Framework
- 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 a seven-room maximum.
- In 2019, City staff conducted a third round of consultations to further refine the proposed improved licensing regime.
- 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 included city-wide permissions and zone-specific regulations.
- Deputations and written comments to the Planning and Housing Committee in June 2021 and to subsequent Council meetings informed changes to the final zoning regulations approved by Council.
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