Monday, November 05, 2007

TCHC Slapped With Class Action Lawsuit

Multimillion dollar suit for “massive violation of basic legal rights”.

TCHC is Canada’s largest landlord, with $5 billion worth of assets consisting of about 60,000 residential units, home to about 165,000 tenants. And with TCHC failing to maintain many of its units in accordance with standard building codes and municipal by-laws, then TCHC is Canada’s largest slumlord. This is the premise of the multimillion dollar class-action lawsuit that TCHC has just been slapped with. As the lawyer Sarah Shartal who is handling the case has asked, “Why are the courts allowing the public sector landlords to be slumlords?…All we’re saying is building codes and municipal bylaws apply to TCHC.”

The law firm Roach, Schwartz, & Associates is launching the lawsuit on behalf of several thousand TCHC tenants whose units are in ill-shape and are receiving little help from TCHC. The suit will seek a payment of $1000 to every tenant who has had to wait for more than two weeks for basic repairs, and an order for all units be brought up to code within six months.

TCHC is currently facing a $300 million repairs backlog. With the City of Toronto strapped for cash (see “Big Cuts…” article in this issue) and the Province hoarding its $2.3 billion budget surplus, it is no wonder that the TCHC is trying ‘revitalize’ by selling of prime real estate like Lawrence Heights to condo developers in order to raise some funds.

Poor maintenance, the gutting of social services (like the recent cuts to Toronto libraries and community centres), and the ‘revitalization’ – these have all been ways for the City of Toronto to ‘balance its budget’ in a time of a serious budget crisis. To be fair though, it is the Province that is mostly to blame. In the 1990s, Ontario Premier Mike Harris downloaded the responsibility for about $500 million in services to the City, but never handed over the extra money to cover those new expenses. And while it was a Conservative government who put these measures into efect, the current Liberal government has done nothing to compensate Toronto. So, at the end of it all, working-class Torontonians are paying more and getting less. But people are standing-up and ighting back. With TCHC residents already expressing opposition to the planned demolition of Lawrence Heights (what TCHC has been calling ‘revitalization’), and with people all across Toronto rallying against the closure of their community centres and libraries, the lawsuit against TCHC opens up a new front in TCHC residents’ fight against their Toronto slumlord and the ongoing indiference of the Provincial government.