Thursday, March 13, 2008

Saving Toronto Housing from the Condo Developers

by John Clarke
of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

Buildings owned by Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) are being run into the ground. A lack of repairs and maintenance has created a crisis for tenants. The neglect is so bad that housing stock will be lost for good if the situation is not turned around.

TCHC admits that they would have to spend some $300 million to get their properties up to a decent standard. The City of Toronto owns the housing but claims that Queen’s Park is to blame for the problems. Actually, both levels of Government want to see the housing deteriorate so that it can be given over to developers to build condos. The process of gentrification has already begun in Don Mount Court and Regent Park and they have planned to do it at Lawrence Heights and in many other places as well.

Tenants who lose their homes to condo developers are told that they will have the right to return once the rebuilding phase is over. However, in Regent Park, they are already reducing the rent-geared-to-income (RGI) portion of the new development. Middle class homeowners will want their property values increased. This means that RGI units will be eliminated over time, and the City knows it. The Regent Park model is a blueprint for destroying public housing.

Obviously, the more the City can run down TCHC communities, the easier it is to hand them over to the condo developers. Buildings pass the point where they can be fixed up and tenants give up on them.

Over the last months, having received many calls from angry TCHC tenants, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has taken up the fight against their abusive landlord. We have taken action to demand repairs for families and communities. We’ve organized community meetings, petitions and delegations to TCHC offices. This work has led to some important successes. We have gone around the City photographing and documenting the shameful conditions that many TCH tenants have to endure and will use this to expose TCHC as a slum landlord. We realize, however, that the developers and their political friends at City Hall will not be stopped unless can find a very serious way to stand up to them.

Currently, OCAP is taking a letter into TCHC communities that tenants can sign. It includes a fill-in portion in which the tenant explains the problems with her/his unit and how long they have been going on. The letter then informs TCHC that they are expected to meet their responsibilities as a landlord and fix the unit to a decent standard. If this is not done, however, the tenant says that it may be necessary to use rent money to do those repairs.
If you would like to sign the ‘rent for repairs’ letter or help organize in your community to challenge the neglect and defend it from the developers, then call OCAP today. ∗