TORONTO -- The Ontario government has introduced legislation that would freeze residential rent prices next year.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement on Thursday saying that if passed fees would not increase for the province’s 1.7 million renters between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31.

“This is a difficult period for everyone, especially for families who are struggling right now,” Ford said. “The last thing I want any family to worry about right now is whether or not they can afford to stay in their homes.”

As a result, landlords and building owners will not be permitted to increase rents to the maximum allowable increase of 1.5 per cent for the next calendar year.

The bill, dubbed the ‘Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act,’ also proposes changes to the Commercial Tenancies Act to extend the temporary ban on evictions for commercial tenants.

Ford said that the ban on commercial evictions would extend as far as Oct. 30 to provide more support to small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

“We won’t rest until every person, every business, every community can get back on their feet,” Ford said.

The ban was initially in place from May 1, 2020 to Aug. 31, 2020.