Decrease Regional Travel & Make Empty Units Available Through a Student Lease Opt Out

Decrease Regional Travel & Make Empty Units Available Through a Student Lease Opt Out

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Eli H started this petition to Doug Ford

Prior to announcements that the entire school year would be online for many institutions, many students had already signed fixed term lease agreements to ensure they would have housing for the next school year. Landlords are refusing to end fixed term leases and will not evict tenants that do not pay, leaving students with no choice but to continue to pay for a unit or room in the city that their institution is located. We are calling on the provincial government to create an opt out option for fixed term leases during the pandemic in order to decrease regional travel that is promoting the interregional spread of COVID-19, and to make affordable units available during a period of increased housing instability.

To begin, with the high price of rent and no way out of their leases, the current system contributes to an increase in inter-regional travel that promotes the spread of COVID-19 throughout the province. Many students feel as if they cannot stay home this year if they are paying large sums of money to rent a unit that will remain empty. The reality of the situation is that students will travel regionally to and from campus to get their moneys worth and they will interact with others that are doing the same thing. Yes, the partying is an issue if there is community spread in the region, but gathering with people that have been in different regions of the province that will be travelling home to those regions to visit causes an even greater threat when it comes to containing outbreaks.

Furthermore, although students have the option to sublet or assign their leases, landlords are screening and denying potential tenants for a variety of reasons including but not limited to a criminal record check. A criminal record is not currently prohibited grounds for discrimination in housing, however, the Ontario Human Right's Commission has noted that asking for a criminal record check likely harms marginalized people that would normally be protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Applications and background checks create extra obstacles for prospective tenants and hurt people that are in need of housing. This contributes to a shortage of units because landlords are preventing students from subletting or assigning them. University towns such as Kingston and London are currently experiencing a housing crisis. Creating an opt out option would encourage students to help by freeing up affordable housing options as well as encourage landlords to provide equitable housing to those in need.

The government has already seen outbreaks related to students returning to campus. The inability to leave a lease agreement is causing many students to be travelling to their institution's town despite classes being fully online. An opt out option for fixed term leases during the pandemic would be another tool to help decrease and contain the spread of COVID-19 while also freeing up units to positively impact housing stability during the pandemic.

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At 100 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!