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Burlington Council Unanimously Approves Resolution Encouraging Participation in Ontario-Canada COVID-19 Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program

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*NOTE: Please click the link for the full minutes from the May 25, 2020 Burlington City Council Meeting — Post-Meeting Minutes – Regular Meeting of Council_May25_2020.

At the May 25 regular meeting of Burlington Council, we unanimously approved a resolution encouraging local property owners/landlords to participate in the Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (OCECRA) program (click the link to read the resolution or scroll further down this post).

It was similar to the resolution that was passed at our Halton Regional Council meeting on May 20, with the addition that if a landlord chooses not to apply to OCECRA (either because they can’t or won’t), then there should be some flexibility in the program for tenants to qualify for rent subsidy in those cases.

The OCECRA program is meant to provide rent relief for small businesses and help commercial tenants experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19.

According to its website, over the course of the program, property owners will reduce rent by at least 75 per cent for the months of April and May (retroactive), and June, for their small business tenants. OCECRA will cover 50 per cent of the rent, with the tenant paying up to 25 per cent and the property owner forgiving at least 25 per cent.

Burlington City Council Resolution (addition to resolution in bold):

Whereas, businesses throughout Halton Region are suffering catastrophic losses of revenue during the COVID-19 public health emergency as a result of reduced demand for products and services or by being closed by order of the Province of Ontario during the pandemic resulting in losses of countless jobs and the inability of business operators to continue to pay expenses during the emergency including rent for their business premises; and

Whereas, Restaurants Canada, the trade organization for the food service industry, reports that 10% of Canadian restaurants permanently closed by the end of March and as many as 50% of those remaining are at risk of failure, in no small measure, due to the lack of ability to pay rent or secure affordable accommodation from their landlords; and

Whereas, the loss of many small and medium businesses will hurt and delay Canada’s full economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic; and

Whereas, Halton Region is encouraged by the cooperation between the Federal and Provincial government to develop the Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program; and

Whereas, both the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business have called for a moratorium on commercial evictions; and

Whereas, in accordance to provisions contained within section 18(i) of the Commercial Tenancies Act, provides that a commercial landlord may repossess leased premises 15 days after the tenant fails to both (i) pay rent and (ii) remedy the failure in the interim and many businesses are either being evicted or are at risk of imminent eviction causing uncertainty for operators and their employees; and

Whereas, the supports that have been provided to businesses to date and predominately focused on keeping staff employed are not sufficient in most cases to keep expenses paid, especially rent, which is often the most significant single operating expense of a business; and

Whereas, the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program that was announced by the Federal government on April 24, 2020, has not, to this date, been implemented and that the proposed conditions for participation in the CECRA create unreasonable barriers to participation including: requiring that commercial landlords have mortgages and the proceeds of the funding be sent directly to such mortgage holder and not the landlord; that the landlord must both agree to participate and apply for the CECRA, that the landlord must apply for each commercial unit where they own many, and that only leases with gross rents of under $50,000 per month can qualify; and

Whereas, not all landlords choose to apply and there should be flexibility for tenants to qualify for rent subsidy in the case;

Therefore be it resolved, that Burlington City Council calls upon the Province of Ontario to freeze commercial evictions within the Province of Ontario for a period up to and including thirty days following the conclusion of the order declaring an emergency under s 7.0.1 (1) the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act; and

That City of Burlington Council calls upon the Federal and Provincial governments to resolve barriers to participate in the Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (OCECRA) and launch the program immediately; and

That a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the Premier of Ontario, the Ministers of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade and the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Halton area Members of Provincial Parliament and Members of Parliament as well as all Halton local municipalities, AMO and FCM, the local Chambers of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.

MY TAKE:

I was pleased to bring this resolution to Burlington City Council on behalf of our businesses — with the support of Councillors Lisa Kearns and Kelvin Galbraith, as mover and seconder, respectively — and with the added request to provide rent relief directly to tenants. Where landlords can’t or won’t participate in the federal/provincial government program, then rent relief must be provided directly to tenants.

— Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

RELATED LINK:

PLEASE NOTE: To stay updated on what the City of Burlington is doing regarding COVID-19, please visit the dedicated pages burlington.ca/coronavirus (and subscribe) and bit.ly/mayormeedwardCOVID19updates, and our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page — bit.ly/COVID19BurlingtonFAQ that are updated as new information becomes available.

A Burlington COVID-19 Task Force has been created to help support our community through this unprecedented emergency — updates will be provided at burlington.ca/COVID19taskforce.

To report an incident of non-compliance with provincial emergency orders, please contact the Halton Regional Police Service COVID-19 Hotline: 905-825-4722.

We’ve also created a dedicated page to feature the local organizations and businesses that have inspired us during the COVID-19 pandemic by taking action to support our community in new and creative ways — head to bit.ly/covidwallofinspiration.

HELPFUL RESOURCES & RELATED LINKS:

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Marianne Meed Ward

Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made. As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington. The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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