Tenants Stand Up to Greedy Landlords
In my first piece about gentrification, I gave an overview of what it is and what it looks like. Thank you to Adam for responding to my piece, but I have to respectfully point out that what he described, a developing York South-Weston without displacement, is not gentrification.
Adam is right, there are ways to build up York South-Weston and make it a more safe, just and equitable community without displacing marginalized residents, but I hate to break it to everyone: that is not gentrification. But what is currently happening to York South-Weston is gentrification.
Let me reiterate, gentrification is market pressures pushing out low-income and often racially marginalized communities from a community to populate it with more affluent and often white populations. To put it simply, this is caused by rising rents, developments that don’t address the needs of the community, and big-box stores replacing mom-and-pop shops. Think of gentrification as displacement.
Gentrification is a deeply political process that doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why some of us, especially some of us who may be fortunate enough to own a home, or drive a car, or shop at Loblaws, may not feel the effects of it in our day-to-day lives. But the majority of York South-Weston does. Life is becoming more and more unaffordable for locals while inequality and development are on the rise. This is gentrification.
Over the past few months, I’ve been witness to tenants rising up against unjustified rent increases, abusive landlords and a stark lack of services.
Before I get into what’s happening in apartment buildings across York South-Weston, it’s important to note that rents always go up by 1.8% regardless of whether any improvements have been made to the building, even when the property taxes of the building are lowered, which is the case for most of the large rental buildings in York South-Weston. Tenants pay the biggest burden of property taxes, while landlords profit from lower taxes.
In 33 King, a high-rise apartment building two blocks north of the Union-Pearson Express, tenants deal with mold in their units, repairs not being dealt with, and unexpected water stoppages that are caused by the development of 22 John Street, which is directly beside 33 King. 33 King is fighting back against a 4.8% rent increase. This is a building where the last increase they faced was in 2014 and was just 0.7% above the guideline. The landlord justifies the 4.8% rent increase with cosmetic “repairs” to the building: renovating the parking garage, putting new lights in the lobby, etcetera.
However, tenants know the increase is because of the 22 John Street development – a rental building that will have zero affordable units – to accommodate its parking needs.
22 John is not only offloading the cost of renovating its parking garage for its future luxury apartments (rents are up to $1,850 for a bachelor unit, $2,400 for a two-bedroom, and no three-bedrooms) onto the low-income tenants next door at 33 King, but the building won’t be controlled by rent control thanks to new legislation put forward by our Premier that erases rent control. So not only are there no affordable units in the building, the rents will likely see drastic increases from year to year ensuring that the average York South-Westonite will never be able to live there.
In the “Twin Towers”, 1765 and 1775 Weston Road, right beside the Union-Pearson Express stop, units are now being renovated and re-rented for upwards of $1,200/month. These are practices called “reno-victing”.
At the Country Club Towers, 2460 Weston Road, tenants are paying $1,300/month for a 2-bedroom unit and $1,500 for a 3-bedroom unit. To put that into perspective, the maximum Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rent for a 3-person household is $803 per month and there is a 9+ year waiting list for social housing.
In 2180 and 2190 Weston Road, located at Weston and Church, tenants are also dealing with very high above-guideline-increases. Once again, the landlord’s justification is renovations to the parking garage, which tenants have discovered is being rented out to a local car dealership. Since the renovation, tenants have been restricted from using the garage and lost storage space that they used to be able to rent.
The injustices happening in these buildings paint a stark picture of the housing crisis happening across York South-Weston and across the city.
So, why are people being priced-out and displaced here, in York South-Weston, a community deemed to be one of the last affordable communities in Toronto? I say: a country-wide housing crisis, the austerity of all three levels of government – a failure to invest in and act on affordable housing (social, co-op, inclusionary zoning) – unaffordable developments that don’t address the pressing needs of the community, and the fact that York South-Weston is on the brink of becoming a transit-hub.
So next time you go to a development meeting in our community and hear developers say something like, “We hope this development attracts a certain type of person to the community,” think about what that means and who they are actively working to push out, to price out, to displace, and to gentrify.
If we want to build a York South-Weston that works for everyone – one that is safe, accessible and affordable – it is incumbent upon all of us to make sure it stays affordable, to work to tackle the root causes of poverty. The problem is not the people our society allows to live in poverty; the problem is a system that pits us against each other, benefits landlords and developers, and traps people in the cycle of poverty. Housing is a human right.
In my next piece, I will explore the grand schemes developers have for York South-Weston.