Ongoing protests and rent strikes in the battle against evictions continue in Parkdale, as hearings before the province’s Landlord Tenant Board pile up.
Signs and banners with messages like “drop the evictions” hang from the balconies on Triller Avenue, a symbol of the continued fight to keep people living there from being kicked out. Around the corner on King Street West, Lindsay Taylor says her landlord has been handing out eviction notices non-stop.
“We’re treading water here. You know we’re dealing with water shut-offs, no hydro, no heat,” she explains. “A lot of people still are without their jobs who work in the service industry. It’s just bizarre.”
Taylor herself lost her job for five months during the pandemic. She has lived in her apartment for four years, and joined a group of tenants who decided to stop paying rent during the health and economic crisis.
“It was quite simple for me at that time: I needed my money to survive,” she says.
Taylor says tenants had been having issues with the landlord for months, before COVID-19 hit.
One point of contention was being asked to pay for fees that usually aren’t part of rent. Another was a backlog of repairs, which tenants say the landlord had acknowledged.
Landlord, Golden Equity Properties, is based in Montreal but owns more than a dozen buildings in Toronto. The company declined CityNews’ request for comment. Tenants also say company representatives are not speaking to them any more.
“I think it was the week that lockdown hit, I received an eviction,” Taylor recalls. She has since received several more notices, as have her neighbours.
While the province has instituted a temporary enforcement ban on evictions, community group Parkdale Organize estimates that the Landlord Tenant Board held nearly 25,000 hearings over the last year. Taylor says she and her neighbours are preparing to go before the board, but have yet to receive hearing dates.
After Taylor started working again, she says she started paying back the rent she owed in installments.
She says she and Golden Equity disagree about the amount of rent she owes, including bank fees for insufficient funds from rent charges that Taylor disputes.
She also alleges that Golden Equity tried to raise her rent for 2021. The Ontario government has frozen 2021 rents at 2020 levels due to the pandemic. There are limited exceptions, including in the case of major building repairs or improvements. Those increases must be approved by the board.
“The sheriff’s not going to come to your door in the next two weeks,” because of the eviction ban, says Emina Gamulin of Parkdale Organize. “Once that’s over, we’re going to see these waves of evictions.”
She adds that the Landlord Tenant Board doesn’t track how many eviction orders it’s issued.
Parkdale residents have organized rent strikes and other protests against landlords numerous times in past years. The neighbourhood, like other areas in the city, is facing the pressure to gentrify.
As one of the last remaining low-income and working-class areas downtown, Parkdale has faced particular pressure.
“There’s also a lot of market pressures with these new financialized landlords trying to come in,” says Gamulin. “Basically what happens when your old slumlord sells your building to these new landlords is they want to flip the units. There’s a lot of financial incentive for them to get you out of your home.”
Gamulin says that because of past tenant successes, eviction rates are actually lower in Parkdale than other neighbourhoods.
“In some cases we’re finding landlords don’t want to touch Parkdale but they are pursuing evictions in other neighborhoods,” she said.