When it comes to eviction, there are a lot of things that the city of Toronto and the housing advocates who work alongside it do not know.
For example: How many evictions have there been in the city? How many of them are called upgrades or personal use evictions? And how many illegal evictions are going on?
The first big problem: The umbrella body of tribunals, including Tribunals Ontario, the Landlord and Tenants Board (LTB), does not actually track the results of its eviction proceedings.
Then, second: the LTB has data that helps answer some of those questions, but does not share it.
“We don’t really know what the problem is,” said Julie Mah, who works as an assistant professor at the University of Florida at Urban Planning.
“There is a lack of access to data and timely data.”
Mah recently released a report through the University of Toronto Municipal Finance and Administration, in which Toronto called for greater collaboration and data sharing between the province and the city to improve its eviction-prevention programs.
“If you’re making evidence-based policy decisions, you need evidence first,” he said.
The city has data sharing requested on a regular basis
The city has been searching for that proof for some time.
According to an email from Abi Bond, executive director of Toronto’s Housing Secretariat (formerly known as the Affordable Housing Office), he is now in early discussions with the province to “seek an information sharing agreement” to gain regular access to LTB. Data
This is not the first: according to a September 2020 report, “the city regularly requests formal data sharing with the province.”
It made a data-sharing request in its submission to Bill 184, also known as protecting tenants and strengthening the Community Housing Act, but that request was not reflected in the final legislation.
Mah says the city’s inability to formulate its provincial policy points to an even bigger problem: Toronto’s “limited power to address the eviction crisis.”
“The city of Toronto needs a meaningful input into the policy development process at the provincial level.
Bond says the city is trying to collect data from sources other than the LTB, which “are in the process of developing a data strategy to support the HousingTO action plan, and consider all possible information sharing options” for researchers and think tanks.
Housing groups are struggling to assess the extent of the problems
Real estate firms and lawyers say they need better access to timely eviction data to do their job.
Magda Barrera, a housing and economics policy analyst at the Advocacy Center for Tenants Ontario (ACTO,), said her group collects its own data and submits an information request to LTB to try to fill the gap – but still grasp the full range of issues it is struggling to get.
“Take updates,” Barrera said.
“Based on the data we have, we know this is an increasing problem, but if we have a complete data set we will be more aware of the scope of the problem and who it is affecting the most.”
LTB releases annual reports and quarterly updates on its open data platform, though Barrera does not have all the information that interests him.
On top of that, the 2020-2021 Annual Report has not yet come out, and the last quarterly report was issued in March 2020 — about 18 months ago.
News to LTB sent a series of questions about why the information was not shared, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.
“My concern is how people are doing this because people don’t want to know how bad it is,” said Jardi Dent, executive director of the Metro Tenants Associations Coalition.
With the arrival of the Ford government in 2018, access to the data he is looking for has become harder and harder over the years, Dent says.
“I have repeatedly heard concerns from various actors that some data is not being shared, and I don’t know why,” he said.
There are no numbers for illegal eviction
Dent said the eviction petitions are in the queue to go before the landlord’s tenants and how often the landlord has downloaded the eviction forms.
“One thing you need to understand about eviction is that most of them are informal. Landlords download a farm, they give it to tenants, and tenants just walk away,” he said.
That is, just a hint of how often illegal evictions are taking place and on what basis a form is downloaded.
Dave Bell, a member of the Parkdale Organization group, says there is good reason for the public to have full access to LTB information.
The Parkdale Organization contributes to the website evictionsontario.ca, which attempts to track what housing activists describe as an eviction crisis in the province.
He says knowing more about the eviction will allow residents to track whether or not policies in their communities are effective.
“As well as the city, as well as advocacy groups, this is something that the public should be aware of. It has a big impact on our city’s makeup.”