Need for housing safety rises with COVID cases

Need for housing safety rises with COVID cases

Despite aggressive restrictions mandated by Toronto for more than 12 months now, recent news about the spread of COVID-19 suggests the need for a renewed focus on safety. 

As of April 5, Ontario health officials were reporting 6,000 new COVID-19 infections over the weekend, with ICU admissions reaching a record high. Government officials said that about 494 patients were receiving treatment for COVID-related illness in intensive care units. 

At the same time, the City of Toronto is postponing plans to clear homeless encampments in parks following an outbreak at a hotel being used for sheltering residents without homes. 

What these news stories make clear is the need for ongoing leadership among Toronto and Ontario businesses to ensure the safest possible environments for residents. 

At Alto Properties, we take that responsibility seriously — and we can prove it. 

Our multi-unit residential building at 859 Kennedy Road was recently evaluated by the city’s RentSafeTO program. The program, initially passed in 2017, is a “bylaw enforcement program that ensures apartment building owners comply with building maintenance standards,” according to the City of Toronto website. 

The program evaluates the safety and adherence to COVID-19 safety measures of apartment buildings with three or more storeys and 10 or more units. RentSafeTO operates with a multi-tiered metric based on the building’s rating from the evaluation. 

Our building, 859 Kennedy Road, scored an 87 percent in a report released this January, placing it in the best possible category. Any score between 86 and 100 percent means the building doesn’t need a re-evaluation for three years. 

The evaluations include many categories for health and safety, upholding the highest apartment building standards. City inspectors look at a building’s elevators, security, water issues, guardrails, maintenance of garbage, cleanliness of floors and ceilings, exterior walkways, the presence of graffiti, and many others. Each category receives a score between 1 and 5. 

In the evaluation for Alto Properties’ 859 Kennedy Road, the building did not receive a score lower than 4 in a single category. 

Never before has the safety of residents been more important, and Alto Properties is committed to offering apartments with the highest standards of safety and hygiene. It’s exhausting enough worrying about your safety when you’re out in the world — we don’t think you should have to worry about it at home, too. 

Although RentSafeTO has existed for several years, the City of Toronto has already updated the program to reflect the needs of the pandemic, with a unanimous decision to expand safety measures. 

The new and improved safety measures will reduce the spread of COVID-19 by asking apartment building owners and operators to take additional steps to protect their residents. 

They include “providing hand sanitizer in common areas, keeping non-essential common areas closed as specified by provincial orders, cleaning frequently-touched surfaces, and posting Toronto Public Health signage,” according to the City of Toronto website. 

Under the new measures, landlords of apartment buildings must:

  • Post all new information about fire code violations or pest management activities to their buildings’ tenant notification boards.
  • Give notice of RentSafeTO visits on notification boards at least 30 days prior to building audits with appropriate contact information for staff.
  • Post information on the tenant notification board about air-conditioned spaces in the building to include information about other places on the property that offer relief from uncomfortably warm indoor temperatures.
  • Develop and maintain a capital plan for each rental building that includes a comprehensive five-year forecast extending beyond major capital repairs.

For new and existing residents, these higher standards of safety do not currently apply to condos, townhomes or housing in private residences. If you encounter issues in that type of housing situation, you will have to contact the City of Toronto, which also asks that you first consult with your landlord.