Toronto tenants calling for provincial moratorium on demovictions

Tenants at risk of being 'demovicted' in Toronto are calling for a moratorium on the practice at a time when many are struggling to find an affordable place to live. Caryn Ceolin with why the province isn't likely to.

Tenants at risk of being ‘demovicted’ from their rent-controlled units in Toronto are calling for a provincial moratorium on the practice at a time when many are struggling to find an affordable place to live.

Megan Kee, an organizer with the group No Demovictions, advocates for the renters of more than a dozen buildings across the city that have been approved for demolition and redevelopment.

“A lot of the buildings are purpose-built affordable rental buildings so the tenants that live in them feel very safe and secure as they see rising rents and low vacancy rates,” Kee told CityNews. “And so to get a notice that the building you’ve lived in, for some people for 10 to 50 years, is being demolished is heartbreaking.”

Kee herself faces demoviction from the midtown apartment she once considered herself lucky for having.

“It wasn’t until I received my notice a year ago that that illusion of safety was shattered,” said Kee.

More than 3,000 units could be knocked down in Toronto to make way for new, bigger condos through demovictions.

Under city rules, developers are required to offer former tenants the new units first at comparable prices when construction is complete. But there is uncertainty around the prospect of uprooting their lives in a competitive rental market during the construction phase without proper compensation.

For the residents of one building near Bay and Bloor Streets, tenants say their deal with the developer provides less than half of what they’ll be able to afford when they are handed eventual eviction notices.

There is also concern around the Ford government’s housing bill, which gives the province the power to scrap or weaken rental replacement rules for municipalities. It hasn’t used those powers yet.

“We are all very worried they’re going to make it much cheaper for developers to come in, demolish these buildings and replace them with expensive, luxury condos,” NDP housing critic Jessica Bell told CityNews.

Bell supports the call for a moratorium on such demolitions and tabled a motion on Wednesday, the last day in the legislature, urging the PCs to press pause on tearing down what is already limited stock of affordable housing.

The housing minister, however, argued the government’s reforms will help spur construction of purpose-built rentals.

“I think we’ll agree on one thing, that there is a need to build more homes faster across the province of Ontario,” said Paul Calandra.

Bell contends that shouldn’t come at the expense of existing renters.

“It makes zero sense to knock down a perfectly good, 24-storey building right near a transit station when we already have so much land we can build on.”

According to the city’s data portal, 83 applications to demolish purpose-built rentals have been approved since 2017. That includes more than 20 approvals last year alone that propose demolishing 867 existing rental units.

The latest census data shows in the past five years, the GTA has lost 27 per cent of its private, affordable apartments.

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