A new website is looking to bring transparency to the housing rental market in Ontario and it's already getting traction from Guelph residents.
Rental Registry is a website where renters can submit how much they pay for rent. The data can be viewed through an interactive map, so others can compare prices around them.
Over 6,000 people have put their price into the site across Ontario.
Nearly 50 have done so in Guelph, as of Wednesday afternoon.
"We see that a lot of people are extremely curious and excited about the information that we are putting in there," said Adam Mongrain, the director of housing policy at Vivre en Ville, a Quebec-based non-profit spearheading the effort.
"Submissions are coming in by the hundreds."
Vivre en Ville are working with the PLACE Centre at the Smart Prosperity Institute, the Angus Reid Institute and the University of Toronto on the site.
Mongrain said the point is that while it's good information to have for consumers, it's meant to be a tool for government.
A site was first launched in Quebec in May.
In Quebec, the law states when you move into a new apartment, the landlord must disclose the lowest price paid for the same unit in the previous 12 months.
But Mongrain said there's no way to check if that information is provided, or if the information is good.
"We're entirely reliant on an honour system," he said.
So a registry site was built. And while that was happening, Mongrain said they spoke with people, particularly economists, across the country about opportunities beyond Quebec.
"Everyone made the point that this helps no matter where you are," he said.
So one was built for Ontario. Mongrain said for markets to work properly, sellers and buyers have to know the same thing. And without a rental registry, they simply don't.
"We don't see what the units were renting out used to cost," he said. "And that's validated with the Angus Reid we commissioned for Ontario, where we see that people have moved in the last year, and seen on average increases in rent of 34 per cent (for existing units)."
In speaking with economists, Mongrain said it will help keep prices stable, and put a dampener on rent inflation.
According to a September report from Rentals.ca, the average price of a one-bedroom unit in Guelph was $2,036, an increase of 1.7 per cent from last year.
Guelph was ranked as the 13th most expensive place to rent a one-bedroom unit among 35 large municipalities in Canada.
A local two-bedroom unit would cost an average $2,427, up 6.9 per cent year-over-year.
Looking over the map, some two-bedroom homes are going for between $2,500 and $3,000 a month in the Parkwood Gardens area. In the Downtown Guelph area.
There are some cheaper rents reported that raise an eyebrow, including around $1,100 for a two-bedroom apartment.
The self-populated site does not vet submissions, although you do have to register.
But it's just a mere snapshot, and Mongrain admits is not enough to have a representative sample of the whole market.
"Getting actual factual data about the state of the rental market is crucial for policymakers to actually act in step with the reality," he said.
He said it can lead to better policy, and better action from public actors because they're more informed with what's going on.