Most people celebrate if they find an affordable apartment in Toronto’s red hot rental market. Glenn Aubrey believes it’s the root of many of his current problems.
Aubrey is one of many low-income Parkdale residents who believe they are being pushed out of their apartments by landlords and realtors intent on maximizing profits.
Aubrey, who lives at 116 Spencer Avenue, said the building was sold last year and a new property management team quickly made its presence felt, beefing up security, ordering an intrusive string of inspections, and ignoring his pleas for repairs.
“Security guards are now showing up and telling us we can’t gather on the porch,” he explained. “They cancelled our yard sale which had been an annual event. I’m not allowed to smoke or drink on the porch, which you’d always been able to do here. There were damages, bed bugs, cockroaches, and they don’t respond.”
He believes management wants him gone so they can renovate and hike the rent on his unit — something he’s already seen happen in the complex.
“I’ve been here for five years now. My rent started at $625 and right now I’m paying $657,” he told CityNews. “From what I’ve been told my neighbours on this floor are paying $1345 for the exact same unit …And one lady upstairs is paying $2000.”
“I’m not paying enough rent if they can get $1600 for this unit.”
Like many, Aubrey has noticed the omnipresent posters of a man’s face plastered throughout the neighbourhood with the title The Man Who Sold Parkdale. The posters have been glued to hydro poles, parking meters, and garbage bins along Queen and King streets and on side streets throughout Parkdale.
Aubrey recognized the man on the posters as real estate agent, Nick Brewerton.
“I’ve recently seen some of the posters go up and that’s when I looked back through some of my notices to see that he was the real estate agent (dealing with) this building. I thought it was a little suspicious that he kept coming in to look at the unit … This is part of their process to say ‘we can renovate this and charge so much for it.’ ”
CityNews has obtained documents that show Brewerton has worked on behalf of the landlord at 116 Spencer Avenue when communicating with tenants about inspections.
While a plethora of factors are at play when it comes to escalating real estate and rental costs, Brewerton’s face is now being used in an anonymous campaign to symbolize the ills of gentrification.
He believes it’s an unfair depiction, saying he has nothing to do with tenants being displaced by landlords.
“In all of the property sales I have arranged, the tenants have remained, and the landlord’s responsibilities have been assumed by the buyer as the new landlord. This has been fully documented by the lawyers in each transaction,” Brewerton said in a statement to CityNews.
“I am aware of concerns generally about rising rents and am sympathetic to anyone having to move and look for an apartment … as a realtor, I would have no role or ability to intervene in any situation of tenants who are being displaced, as this would be a matter between the landlord and the tenants.”
But one community legal worker believes realtors should shoulder some of the blame when low-income tenants are displaced, saying some are exploiting legal loopholes to push residents out.
“There is a huge gap in the Ontario laws where if a landlord is able to push out long-term tenants they are able to raise the rent to whatever they see fit,” Vic Natola, a paralegal at Parkdale Community Legal Services, told CityNews.
“We are seeing real estate agents … adding more fire to this problem … approaching older landlords who are thinking of retiring and getting out of the business, and letting them know that if (they) can push out long-term tenants from the building … (they) can make a lot more money.”
“(It) is not illegal, unfortunately … but I would consider it unethical,” Natola added.
Community pushes back
Joshua Barndt of Parkdale Neigbhourhood Land Trust said he understands the frustration behind the postering and online campaign targeting Brewerton.
CityNews reached out to the anonymous person/persons behind the campaign through their website, but has not received a response.
In the meantime, Barndt says real estate agents are a natural target for frustration from residents who feel taken advantage of.
“There are particular realtors in the neighbourhood who are marketing these privately-owned, affordable housing buildings as potentially very profitable investment properties,” Barndt told CityNews.
“The way that profit is created is that low-income tenants are pushed out. So tenants are finding creative ways … to push back against forces that are trying to hurt them.”
Barndt adds that the ramifications of displacement are staggering, and can result in a new wave of people who call the streets their home.
“The homelessness crisis in this neighbourhood and city is going to escalate and the city does not have the capacity to face that challenge,” he warned.
“For people being priced out or pushed out of their homes, they’re not only losing their home but they are losing their support network, they are losing the services they need. They are losing their communities…so of course it throws people into crisis.”
Parkdale resident, Wahid Bayan, knows that all too well. He moved into a rooming house after escalating rents forced him out of the Jameson Avenue apartment he called home for the last decade.
He now fears it’s only a matter of time until he’ll be pushed out of Parkdale for good.
“The sweetest place you’re gonna be is Parkdale,” he said. “There is food, there’s a lot of help, harm reduction, legal aid, the food bank. This is the only place to be if you are a low-income person. This is the only place you can survive….and you’ll be chased out of here.”
Are you a tenant or landlord impacted by the GTA housing crisis? Stuck in a rental dispute? Contact us with your story or questions and tune into CityNews at 5 on Thursday July 12th when we’ll be speaking with real estate experts about Toronto’s housing situation.