Co-op boards and the TCHC go after some of the most vulnerable in our community
by Farshad Azadian, an organizer with the Esplanade Community Organization
BASICS #15 (Sep/Oct 2009)
The Esplanade community, like many working class neighbourhoods across Toronto, is seeing a wave of attacks on its poor and working class residents who are seeing their ability to live with dignity trampled on. Members of the Esplanade Community Organization have gotten word of a series of evictions of poor residents, many of whom are being kicked out because they cannot afford the increasing cost of housing. The drastic increases many people face are often due to the cuts and eliminations to rent subsidies.
Having grown up in the Esplanade, it’s hard to see familiar faces that have been around for over a decade being forced out of their homes. A look at the numbers speaks loudly to the situation we find ourselves in; where many co-ops and TCHC-run buildings that could once boast of having 50% of their units as rent-geared-to-income, having been reduced to below 20%, with further cuts along the way.
One family of over 15 years at the Caroline Co-op saw their rent increase by $700 a few months ago. The decision to cut their subsidy was based on technicalities where the Co-op board and administrative staff determined that documentation was brought in late. The family flatly asserts that the documentation that has always been expected of them to renew their subsidy was brought in on time, having dealt with the renewal process for about 15 years.
Furthermore, the board knew that the head of that household suffers from mental and physical disabilities, but that didn’t prevent them from giving an absurd two-day deadline for getting together certain additional documents. Ms. Nafarinejad Khalsi says that “the coop board made a commitment to send any important requests and letters to my ex-husband, knowing that I had disabilities, yet failed to do so”. Being unable to pay the increased rent, the board made a decision to revoke her membership and intends to evict her within a month.
There is another case just across the street from Ms. Nafarinejad where a young woman is facing eviction because of an inability to keep up with the rent costs on her unit. With limited amounts of subsidized housing availablein her building, she would have to be placed on a waiting list. Having lived there for 16 years and counting, she faces the risk of eviction from her childhood home with no help being offered. Above all, she also struggles with disabilities that prevent her from working.
What is clear is that if poor and working class people don’t organize themselves, we will see this process continue and possibly get worse. Understanding this, Ms. Nafarinejad’s family and allies, including members of the Esplanade Community Organization, have begun organizing with fellow residents to fight the eviction decision at an upcoming members meeting at the coop.
A good number of these attacks on poor people are due to particularly bureaucratic anti-people interests on the co-op boards, and it’s quite clear that if poor and working class people don’t stand up and take these particular boards back, the attacks will continue. However, we cannot lose fact of the broader picture where different levels of the Canadian government are consistently reducing funding for affordable housing in the City of Toronto. If we are going to stop this trend, we are going to have to organize our communities, and using the coop boards as a voice for vulnerable residents should be part of our strategy. If we fail to organize, it seems that at the very least, significant parts of the Esplanade will see poorer residents being driven out to be replaced by wealthier residents.
Those who wish to report their housing issues, whether they be concerning repairs, subsidies, evictions, etc. can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to build a broad network of contacts that can begin to take up the issues that affect poor and working class tenants in our community. ∗