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Parkdale rent strike brings attention to affordable housing

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Apartment buildings in Toronto. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Fifty residents of 1251 King Street West in Parkdale are committed to holding a rent strike for the month of February after learning that their landlord was going to be hiking up their rent by 3.4 per cent.

Nuspor Investments -- who did not return my phone call for comment on this article -- is raising their rent by nearly double the Ontario’s 1.8 per cent guidelines for 2018, an amount just not sustainable for its tenants. Parkdale is a working class neighbourhood that has been under the threat of gentrification for years now, which has led to a further scarcity of affordable housing in the area and in the city at large.

Luckily for other renters in the city, a commitment to provide more affordable housing through the Ontario Fair Housing Plan -- a large scale effort to secure affordable access to housing in the city -- has been a success.

According to the government of Ontario, the province's "Fair Housing Plan introduces a comprehensive package of measures to help more people find affordable homes, increase affordable housing supply, protect buyers and renters and bring stability to the real estate market.”

Government action to protect renters include expanding rent control to all private rental units in Ontario, including those built after 1991. This will ensure increases in rental costs can only rise at the rate posted in the annual provincial rent increase guideline. This rate is currently at two per cent.

Residents at 1251 King Street -- with the support of Parkdale Community Legal Services and Parkdale Organize -- are fighting against what they see as an attempt to push out lower income tenants from the property.

A rent strike doesn’t necessarily mean that all fifty strikers will automatically be evicted, as it is not the landlord’s final decision to evict, but that of the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board. In this situation, the strikers are appealing to Nuspor Investments and the Board to prevent such a high rent increase.

Renters are also claiming rampant negligence of other maintenance issues on the property, which is another reason why they have gone on strike.  

Tenants claim that Nuspor is trying to pass off the costs of a $296,935 lobby renovation, as well as over $35,000 other costs to fix up the aging building, unfairly onto them. Downloading these costs onto tenants as rent increases is described as an unfair burden on the renters, hence the strike.

"Support your neighbours on rent strike!" reads an event invite for the rally. "Nuspor refuses to do repairs in units and has tried to intimidate tenants for organizing with their neighbours. It's time for Parkdale to stand up to Nuspor."

There is a recent history of success in Parkdale. "In the summer of 2017, more than 300 Parkdale tenants in MetCap buildings went on strike against AGI's (Above Guideline Increases) and won," reads a resident info sheet from Parkdale Organize. "In the same way, the tenants at 1251 King can force Nuspor to withdraw its applications for the AGIs at their buildings," the note continues. "History shows us its the social and political struggles of working class people that bring about change in society."

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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