Weeks before Hamilton, Ont. councilors reconvene in an attempt to beef up support for victims of renovictions, a pair of recent demonstrations exhibited the pressure being felt by tenants fearing homelessness.
An example was Tuesday’s effort by some 40 or so advocates who dragged banners and picket signs to capture the attention of Oakville realtor Dylan Suitor, who was holding a speaking engagement at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.
ACORN members allege Suitor is connected with a 60-unit downtown building at 1083 Main Street East where tenants have been fighting N13 applications since October 2021 – seeking an end to their tenancy through the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB)
David Galvin, who has lived at the address for 20 years, says the seven residents remaining across 13 units have experienced “pressure tactics” and “lack of maintenance” since receiving the N13s.
“No use of our laundry facilities, lack of snow and garbage removal, lack of pest control and just general unit maintenance,” Galvin said.
“I personally have not had a working shower in three months time.”
The lack of water caught the attention of city councillors in February when delegates complained about the circumstance despite a repair order issued by the city to fix the problem.
Tenants accused Suitor of shutting off the building’s water supply after pipes burst due cold air exposure during renovations.
The city’s order required the landlord to replace the pipes, an edict Suitor had been appealing.
As water was being restored in March, a number of other tenants eagerly awaited answers from the province on applications filed against them for evictions.
Two tenants are still awaiting rescheduled LTB hearings after adjournments, another is still awaiting a decision after a July 14 hearing.
Galvin revealed residents were offered a $15,000 incentive to vacate prior to issuance of the N13s, along with a non-disclosure stipulation to refrain from talking about the agreement for two years.
He insists none of the repairs and upgrades truly require residents to leave and that the work can be done while tenants remain in their homes.
“We’re not asking for a fancy dishwasher, we’re perfectly content in the units we live in,” he suggested. “We just want to not be homeless.”
Global News has reached out to Suitor for comment but has not received a reply since the publishing of this post.
Meanwhile, ACORN used the backdrop of 20 Duke Street to join a nationwide rally last week demanding the federal government to end apartment sales to alleged “predatory landlords.”
The member organization accuses 20 DS Inc. of buying the property in 2021 and attempting to empty the building for mass renovations to charge higher rents.
Tenants accused the landlord of cutting internet service, turning on heat during hot days and shutting off hot water periodically.
Jenn, one of just two residents still residing at 20 Duke, told a gathering that garbage and cockroaches were prominent fixtures in the decaying building which also doesn’t have a working laundry room.
She says repairs and upgrades from the landlord are in the offing over a 12 to 18-month period, however, a notice also says rent will increase amid those fixes.
“Right now I’m on ODSP, I make $1,200 dollars a month on ODSP …it’s not enough due to the high cost of living and surviving,” she said.
“People like us should not have to choose between food and rent … I am scared of being homeless.”
Repeated attempts to set up a meeting with the remaining residents with facilitators from 20 DS Inc. last week failed, according to ACORN.
Jenn and Rick have since been served with eviction notices and are expected to vacate by the end of November.
An Emergency and Community Services Committee meeting on Aug. 17 will revisit what options councilors and city staff can roll out to aid tenants experiencing renovictions, even though landlord-tenant disputes fall within the province’s domain.
Housing director Michelle Baird says recommendations around renoviction bylaws will be presented as will expansion of a tenant defence fund – aiding groups fighting termination notices.
She says part of the current problem is tenants not being aware of their rights exacerbated by the lack of time and financial resources needed to pursue legal options.
“So how do we put some supports in place to help people and ensure tenants do know what their rights are and how do they access the supports to work through that process,” Baird explained.
Councillors are also expected to review a former 2019 bylaw introduced by New Westminster, B.C. politicians featuring a fund landlords could access to pay for renovations on the condition a displaced tenant would be able to move back in when completed.
Ward 4 councillor Tammy Hwang suggests no harm in copying what other municipalities are doing and is hopeful a “made in Hamilton” solution could be ratified later this month.
“(That) depends on what we’re seeing from the report and we want to make sure that this is fair and equitable and makes sense for everyone,” she said.
Rents up 15% on new one-bedroom units in Hamilton for July
For the second straight month rent for new-to-market units in Hamilton went up by double-digit percentages year over year as of July.
Rentals.ca, an agency that tracks rental listings across Canada, says the city saw increases of 15.3 and 12.2 per cent in one- and two-bedroom suites respectively when comparing last month with July 2022 data.
A one-bedroom suite in the city is averaging about $1,870.
That’s still cheaper than 13 other major Ontario municipalities Rentals.ca tracks with most cities tracking above the $2,000 mark.
A two-bedroom unit cost an estimated $2,298 per month in July.
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