Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Basics Editorial
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

TCHC website shows this artist’s rendition of Phase 1 of “Revitalization” in Regent Park at Dundas and Parliament.

The future of Toronto’s social housing – how much there will be, where it will be located – will depend on the struggle of the people in Toronto’s social housing communities to demand and fight for better housing.

Residents of Lawrence Heights should brace themselves for the propaganda campaign that TCHC is set to unleash on them throughout the summer of 2008. Starting in May 2008, TCHC will choose its “Consultant Teams” which will begin deploying “community engagement” schemes in the community to get people on board with revitalization. Essentially, people can expect more of the same empty consultations with their “voices” falling on deaf ears.

On February 16, 2008 Basics Community Newsletter and a number of volunteer lawyers organized a legal clinic for residents at the Lawrence Heights Community Centre to fill-out Tenant Rights (T2) and Maintenance (T6) forms to the Ontario Landlord Tenant Board. Many families filled out these forms, with many more calling on Basics to help them with the forms in the weeks and months ahead.

However, TCHC and the Landlord Tenant Board have found sneaky ways to disqualify people’s applications.

In one case, a resident who filled out a claim to the Board was contacted by a TCHC representative asking the claimant to adjourn for another day. As nice as the tenant was, she agreed. Trustfully assuming that TCHC’s legal counsel would take care of the adjournment, the tenant in question did not show up for her trial. The tenant was sent a letter by the Landlord Tenant Board indicating that her case had been thrown out because she failed to show up. TCHC had successfully fooled the tenant from going to her own hearing.

Another claimant – who was also contacted by TCHC requesting adjournment – decided to ignore TCHC and proceed to the Landlord Tenant Board. Even though TCHC said that they could not attend, their legal counsel was in attendance. The results? The TCHC counsel told the adjudicator at the Board that they were not able to proceed with the case and that they had to reconvene another day. The Board went ahead and scheduled another hearing that was convenient for TCHC and not for the tenant. The tenant not only lost a day’s work, but she was sent home with a rescheduled hearing that she couldn’t even attend. In her words: “The system has failed me and this shows that the system doesn’t work for the working poor.”
There is a saying that goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I’m the fool”. TCHC tenants must learn from the experiences of their neighbours and not be fooled by the duplicitous slumlord.

These cases demonstrate that the law works to the advantage of the powerful. So people need to build their own community power to take control of their communities. So long as communities wield hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in rent money, people need to recognize that they already have community has power; but that power can only be used if organized.

One option left for residents is to flood the Board with cases. It will be very difficult for them to throw out tens or even hundreds of cases, and if they do they’ll only prove to us even more how useless their laws are for the community. The other option, whether or not people use the Landlord or Tenant Board, is to organize themselves into united community organizations to take further actions

The time to organize ourselves is here! Fight back through the Landlord Tenant Board! And if that doesn’t work, let’s unite as a community to fight for better housing! Only the people united have the power to make “revitalization” benefit the people. Contact Basics for more information! ∗