This is what gentrification really is – Part 2

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.

12 thoughts on “This is what gentrification really is – Part 2”

  1. I feel 2292 Weston is trying to renovict too.I am white and have lived in Mount Dennis Weston all my life as did my grand parents when they Came from England many years ago and settled here.I feel like I am being pushed from my home.I am a 57 year old single mom now with an autistic son with no chance of housing for him for many years and trying to keep a roof over our head til that day comes or god forbid something should happen to me which is already scary enough.This area and Toronto is all he’s ever known and to be forced out would be very damaging to him and to me.I don’t drive all his doctors and services that are the best for him are here in Toronto.These greedy politicians and developers who are probably friends of said politicians make me so sick and angry.They care nothing for the people what soever just themselves and their pockets.Property management companies are are forcing out tenants renovating and putting people in poverty or on the streets.The greed is disgusting!

    1. Hi Maureen. Thank you for reading and sharing your experience. I’m so sorry that this is happening to you. We must do better. Please get in touch with me at [email protected] if you’d like to do some tenant organizing in your building – we would love to support you.

      1. people work more then one job to be able to own a car shop at Loblaws and have a house so don’t be salty

        1. 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. THIS IS BULL SH*T

        2. 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. BULL SH*T

  2. Absolutely bonkers, but not at all surprising, that the Premier “of the people” got rid of rent control. Cause honestly, the read of the land quite obviously is that developers have been struggling to feed their families, while the poor have been partying like its 1999. The housing crisis was already in full flare prior to this – Our premier just poured gasoline on because who doesn’t enjoy watching people burn? Doesn’t everyone have a company they will inherit from daddy that will feed the piggy bank?

    My sister and her husband live in an apartment (outside of YSW) with my 1 year old nephew. They have already been given notice that at some point, they will be given 6 months notice to move out, as there are plans to tear down and build new. My sister moved in 6 years ago, and her husband lived there for 5 or so years prior. Thanks to this longevity, their rent was manageable. They were saving up, hoping to eventually buy something further down the line. One can dream, right? Now they face the prospect of even worse and more expensive conditions once they are forced to move. There was a glimmer of hope that they would have the option of moving back into the new building once it is built, but I suspect with rent control out the door, there will be no way at all for them to afford it.

    Anyways – guess we’ll see how the comments flow for this one. The impression I got from the last article was how out of touch many readers are with the harsh realities that young families are currently facing. Many seem unable to distinguish that their experiences at that age decades ago are nothing akin to what is presently happening.

  3. As someone who has lived in Weston my entire life, albeit not a very long one as of yet, I have seen gentrification moving in more and more, though I was not aware of the word a few months ago. Gentrification would devastate Weston, as it already has. The reason stores are being forced to close or move out is because rent is getting to be too high. I have been looking for a home to rent with my family, but it is near impossible to do now with the rent prices rising, and they are set to rise more with the announcement from the Premier. If Weston were to work with community groups like Frontlines and UrbanArts to bring up youth without the stigma of being from a minority, we would not be seeing the issues we see now or think that “weston needs a bit of gentrification.” The entire city is getting to be too hard to live in, which will force young people out further and further. Gentrification only serves to help those of the declining middle class and upper class. Those who inhabit this space are not students or young professionals, as no one is willing to pay us a fair wage for our work, but those who already have homes and savings. Reflect on this when looking at the wonderful neighbourhood we have now and ask yourself who will be living here in 20 years. Will it be young families or retirees?

  4. You’ve revealed the hidden greed that is destroying lives and pushing more and more people into anger and insecure, unsafe living conditions.

    The idea that 33 King residents should have rents raised and yet deal with mould and repairs not done while the outside of the parking garage is painted in vibrant colours to suit the 22 John St development is horrible.

    Even the great TD prize to Urban Arts, described in the next post, is part of this: moving the branch off Weston’s Main Street, where it is accessible to those many people without cars and without computer banking, seniors, immigrants, those with severely limited means, is like those colours on the parking garage. A prize costs the bank nothing, and is nothing but show.

    Thank you for this information, and for your work.

  5. riley people work there butts off to have a car,shop at Loblaws and have a house so stop being salty.

  6. Hi. I don’t disemvowell because I disagree with you. I disemvowell when people are being rude. You might like to have a look at our dinner-party rule, over there in “Commenting on WestonWeb”. In short, the ‘policy’ is this: if you wouldn’t say it at my dinner party, don’t say it on my site. In particular, we won’t bear ad hominems on other readers or our writers.

  7. Riley why do you have to bring race into the article? “…populate it with more affluent and often white populations.”. I think I got the answer when I googled your name and saw that pink hat… Anyways are you trying to subliminally associate the (perceived) negativities of gentrification; with rich white people? As if they are the cause for the negativities in your society? You could have left the race part out.

    I agree with most of your article and I’m still all for gentrification! Especially if it means getting rid of those “money loan” stores and replacing them with banks, high-end coffee shops etc.. but why would those companies want to move into a community filled with poverty?

    But there’s good news for you Riley! (And not-so-good news for those who work their butts off to afford a car and shop at Loblaws). Gentrification won’t come to Weston. The many high rise apartment buildings here were systematically put here for a reason: to ensure Weston stays one of the poorest ridings in Ontario. Those buildings can raise the rents all they want.. it won’t last long as they’ll be forced to lower the rates back down, or be faced with empty units galore.

    Anyways, from your Social-Justice-Warrior perspective, what do you see as the solution to all of this? More social programs and government aid?? I’d like to see Weston cleaned up as much as anybody else. What’s the solution to all of these crappy storefronts, countless welfare collectors loitering the Weston/Lawrence intersection, drugs, crime??

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