Healthy Homes - Habitation saine

Every person deserves affordable, livable housing. In many low income neighbourhoods, tenants live with mold, pests, broken elevators, and other challenges because landlords will not do the repairs needed. ACORN Canada members fight for landlord licensing, building inspections, and stronger enforcement of maintenance rules and by-laws.
See our Healthy Homes demands here.

Don't Bloc Affordable Housing

Image waking up one morning this spring and reading this headline:

"Bill to create National Housing Strategy defeated in House of Commons"

I don't want to feel like I could have done more and didn't. Do you? ACORN members have been organizing to build community support for Bill C-304 for a National Housing Strategy, but we need to keep the pressure up until the final vote.

Can you take action to help win the passage of this important piece of legislation?

Click to Take Action on this Campaign >>

Inside Toronto: ACORN members call for more apartment polling stations

July 15th, 2010 by Mike Adler - Inside Toronto

For those who find it hard to walk or hard to care, two or three blocks to a polling station is one more reason not to vote.

The City of Toronto can change that by putting a poll in every building with 100 apartments or more this fall, the advocacy group ACORN told municipal election officials Thursday, July 15.

Edward Lantz, a St. Jamestown tenant, handed a letter with that request to staff at the city's election services office and asked for a meeting with City Clerk Ulli Watkis, responsible for poll placement.

Municipal election turnout is low, particularly for tenants, read Lantz. "In the name of democracy, we hope you take this request seriously."

Outside in Nathan Phillips Square, red-shirted members of ACORN - Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now - said tenants with disabilities, seniors and busy single mothers can find even a short walk to a polling station too long.

"There's handicapped people who can't get around and they don't want to go all the way to a school to vote," said Marion Callow, a Weston woman. "There's people that are scared to get around."

ACORN member Mary Blakelock of Scarborough uses a cane and has called candidates for a lift on election day, but said not everyone knows they can do that.

Bonita Pietrangelo, the city's director of elections, said having a poll in every large apartment building would be impossible for this October, given the number of vote tabulators the city has.

The city must have polling stations in retirement homes with 50 or more occupied beds and in institutions for the disabled or chronically ill with 20 beds or more, she said this week.

But for the first time, the city must also ensure all its voting locations are accessible to the disabled, so Pietrangelo said her department is reviewing each one before the election.

Tenants in the demonstration said they will work on removing other barriers to participation, which include, some said, widespread apathy toward politicians who never seem to listen.

If votes from tenants are scarce, "that's because they haven't been heard for a long time," said Lucy Fukushima of Riverdale.

Globe and Mail: Councillors move to get renters to the polls

July 16th, 2010 by Kelly Grant - Globe and Mail

For council speaker Sandra Bussin, the scale of tenant disenfranchisement in Toronto hit home at Hanson House, a seniors complex near Coxwell Avenue and Hanson Street.

The entire building was accidentally dropped from the rolls a few elections back, she said.

The situation wasn’t much better at the Alexandra Park public-housing complex in Councillor Adam Vaughan’s downtown ward in 2006.

“When the polls opened three hours late on election day,” he said, “there were four names on the list.”

Toronto City Council and local election officials are determined not to leave renters out of the 2010 election. But they face an uphill battle adding tenants to a voters list riddled with errors and omissions.

“Right now, the likelihood that a tenant is on the list is virtually zero,” said Ms. Bussin, councillor for Ward 32 Beaches-East York.

Council voted last week to direct the city manager’s office to launch an aggressive outreach campaign in apartments and condos.

Achieving that proved difficult – the city clerk’s office, which oversees municipal elections, presented an outside legal opinion that concluded council couldn’t tell the clerk what to do on an election matter.

After hours of passionate debate, council found a loophole and asked the city manager’s office to build on the efforts of the clerk’s office, which is already working with tenant groups and the Toronto Community Housing Corporation to pump voter turnout beyond a dismal 38.9 per cent in 2003 and 39.3 per cent in 2006.

“What the clerk’s department said was for us to advocate on behalf of tenants is for politicians to interfere with the electoral process and that that would put the entire election in jeopardy,” Mr. Vaughan said. “If someone wants to overturn the results of the election because we made an extra effort to enumerate tenants, we think there’s not a judge in the country that would buy that.”

Renters have tumbled through gaps in the system since 1999, when Queen’s Park farmed enumeration out to the newly created Municipal Property Assessment Corporation and killed the old-fashioned, door-to-door voter registration drive.

Mistakes plague MPAC’s preliminary voters lists across the province, but the problem is especially acute in Toronto, where half of all residents rent and many don’t speak enough English to fill out the paperwork properly.

Whereas owners are added to the voters’ list when they buy a home or business, renters have to rely on the owner of their building to send their names to MPAC.

Assuming that list is correct, MPAC mails an occupancy form to the tenant. Owners receive the same form when they buy. Fifty per cent of homeowners return the form; only 20 per cent of tenants do, said Janet Andrews, Toronto’s manger of elections and registry services.

Like all eligible voters, tenants can still cast a ballot by presenting valid identification and proof of address at a polling place – assuming they can find the correct station.

That’s why ACORN, the controversial activist group, is pushing for Toronto to put polling stations in every building with more than 100 units. “It’s more convenient for people to go into their lobbies,” said Edward Lantz, an ACORN board member and chair of the St. Jamestown chapter, one of seven in Toronto. “We don’t want anybody to get left behind.”

Ms. Andrews called that idea cost-prohibitive in a city with 5,000 residential buildings five storeys or taller. Extra polling stations cost about $8,500 a pop: $8,000 for a new vote-tabulating machine and a minimum of $500 for staff.

Using census data and poll-by-poll counts, Ryerson University professor Myer Siemiatycki found that the percentage of tenants had no impact on voter turnout in 2003 and a slightly positive effect on turnout in 2006. In other words, places with a high concentration of renters actually boasted a voter turnout slightly higher than the average in the last election.

“Until very recently, one of the stock assumptions in the municipal arena was tenants vote at a much lower rate than homeowners,” he said. “The data over the last couple of elections shows that’s a myth. Tenants do vote and they need to be enumerated.”

Ottawa Metro: Affordable housing plan needed: ACORN

July 9th, 2010 by Steve Collins - Ottawa Metro

About two dozen people gathered outside cabinet minister John Baird’s constituency office to call for a national affordable housing strategy.

Members of the local chapter of the Association for Community Reforms Now (ACORN) came out in support of Bill C-304, a private members’ bill introduced by NDP MP Libby Davies.

“We’re one of the richest countries in the world, and every other (G-8) country has a national housing strategy. Shame on Canada for not having a national housing strategy,” ACORN board member Kathleen Fortin said. “There’s 10,000 people here in Ottawa on the waiting list for housing.”

After the rally, the group attempted to meet with Baird. Office staff refused to open the door, so demonstrators taped a sign to the office door and slipped an information sheet under it.

Ottawa EMC: Residents rally for housing strategy

July 15th, 2010 by Katie Stewart - OttawaEMC

EMC News- Ottawa residents rallied with ACORN last week to bring awareness and gain support of Bill C-304, which calls for a national housing strategy.

If passed, the bill would require the federal government to bring all levels of government together to enact a plan to increase safe and affordable housing across Canada.

"We need to build affordable housing in Canada. We're the only G8 country without a national housing strategy," said Ottawa ACORN member Sheila Searles, who is also an active tenant leader in her building on Russell Rd. that is owned by Ottawa Community Housing Corporation.

Even though Canada is one of the richest countries in the world, in Ottawa alone, there are over 10,000 people on a waiting list for affordable housing. People can wait close to eight years for a unit to become available and in Ontario, the wait lists have increased by 9.6% in the last year.

"Housing is fundamental. Without stable housing, your education and job are jeopardized, It's essential," said Shannon Lee Mannion, community leader for affordable housing in Centretown. "Affordable housing helps stabilize people. It's a life raft."

Currently, the bill has gained the support from the Liberal, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois parties. When the bill passed its second reading in Parliament in September 2009, all MP's from these parties voted in support of Bill C-304. However, the Conservative government has yet to come on board and support the bill. Only one MP from the party voted in favour of the bill. There are 137 Conservative members of Parliament.

"They don't care because they don't have to care," said Ms. Mannion.

The demonstration of about 30 people on July 8 took place on Carling Avenue in front of the office of Conservative MP John Baird in an attempt to gain support of the bill. Mr. Baird voted against Bill C-304.

"We want John Baird and the Conservative government to give at least some consideration to this bill. This is important. It's a national crisis," said Ms. Mannion.

Andrea Thomas who is a tenant leader on her block in the east end said that the Conservatives who voted against the bill should try living in affordable housing to see how it feels for people who depend it.

"We need more housing and we need to gain the support from the Conservative government," said Ms. Thomas.

When the ACORN group approached Mr. Baird's office to present him with an information sheet, they were refused entry and were eventually ignored.

Mr. Baird's office would not provide a comment to The EMC.

"It you pay tax dollars, you deserve to talk to your MP. It's appalling," said Kat Fortin, supporter of Bill C-304.

Tahir Nazari, who voted for Mr. Baird in the last election, said he would not be voting for him again.

"We should get a response. I am living in Ottawa housing and we are facing problems. No one is helping," he said.

Presently, Ontarians are still waiting for a provincial strategy for affordable housing.

Le Droit: Manif pour plus de logements abordables

April 23rd, 2010 by François Pierre Dufault - Le Droit

Une association qui défend les locataires de logements abordables à Ottawa déplore le fait qu'encore trop de ménages sont dans l'attente d'un chez-eux.

Hier, des membres de l'Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) ont manifesté devant un complexe de logements abordables à l'angle du chemin Richmond et de l'avenue Croydon, dans l'ouest de la ville.

Ils ont voulu signaler aux gouvernements l'urgence de bâtir de nouveaux logements à prix modique et de rénover ceux qui sont déjà construits.

« Il n'y a pas assez de logements abordables et la situation ne s'améliore pas. Elle s'aggrave. On donne des logements abordables en priorité aux sans-abri qui devraient plutôt se trouver dans des maisons d'accompagnement et il ne reste plus assez de logements pour ceux qui vivent au salaire minimum », a dénoncé Diane Rochon, une membre d'ACORN à Ottawa.

ACORN propose également la création de fonds en fiducie où les locataires de logements abordables pourraient déposer leur montant de leur loyer, sans craindre d'être expulsés, dans le but de forcer les propriétaires à rénover leur logis.

À l'heure actuelle, plus de 10 000 familles sont dans l'attente d'un logement abordable à Ottawa.

Original article at:


Le Droit: Le logement abordable au coeur de la campagne électorale

June 16th, 2010 by François Pierre Dufault - Le Driot

Le regroupement des organismes communautaires pour la justice sociale à Ottawa enjoint les candidats aux élections municipales du 25 octobre prochain à s'engager à créer davantage de logements abordables.

C'est le message que l'Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) entend marteler tout au long de la campagne électorale. Le groupe demande la construction d'au moins 1000 nouvelles unités de logement abordable par année, seulement pour répondre à la demande.

« Les listes d'attente pour du logement abordable ne cessent de s'allonger », de constater Éloi Proulx, un membre fondateur de l'ACORN.

Selon les plus récents chiffres de l'Alliance pour mettre un terme à l'itinérance (AMTI), quelque 10 000 familles vivent dans l'attente d'un logement subventionné par la Ville d'Ottawa.

Jusqu'à présent, seul le conseiller municipal et candidat à la mairie, Alex Cullen, s'est formellement engagé à créer plus de logements abordables.

« Je veux y consacrer la moitié des 23 millions $ que le gouvernement de l'Ontario versera à la Ville d'Ottawa pour ses programmes sociaux. Ça ne va pas régler le problème, mais ça va donner un sérieux coup de pouce », a déclaré M. Cullen au Droit.


Inside Toronto: Downtown rally calls for affordable housing

July 13th, 2010 by Justin Skinner - Inside Toronto

Concerned over the lack of a national housing strategy, a group of local activists gathered in Toronto's financial core on Thursday, July 8.

A small group of housing advocates from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Canada (ACORN Canada) took their pleas to the streets, urging the Harper government to support Bill C-304, tabled by Vancouver East MP Libby Davies.

The bill calls for more funding for safe, affordable housing to help combat homelessness across the country.

Edward Lantz, chair of ACORN's St. James Town chapter, said they opted to lobby at the corner of King and Bay streets because it would be the best place to reach Conservative supporters.

"We don't have a Conservative MP in Toronto, but the majority of the support for the Conservative government comes from down here," he said.

Lantz noted both the Liberals and New Democrats have supported the idea of a national housing strategy. The Conservatives' refusal to support such a strategy, however, has left Canada as the only G8 country without one.

He said the recent G20 Summit showed where the Harper government's priorities lie.

"The current Harper government spent $1.5 billion on the G20," he said. "That could provide 16,000 new (affordable housing) units in the City of Toronto."

With waiting lists for affordable housing at an all-time high - the wait is currently at least 10 years - too many Canadians are forced to spend 30 per cent or more of their monthly income on rent, he said, adding that does not even take into account the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who are homeless, or those living in overcrowded spaces or substandard housing.

"We want landlords to be held accountable and we need rent controls," Lantz said. "The average rent in Toronto for a one-bedroom apartment is $800 to $900, and when you get most people making $13 or $14 and hour, prices have escalated too much."

Fellow ACORN member Carmen Respondek said the need for housing was critical. She echoed Lantz's sentiments that the money spent on G20 security should have gone toward housing instead.

"I was shocked when I heard about the fake lake," she said. "Who needs a fake lake when we don't have affordable housing?"

$100 million in repairs for tenants

$100,000,000.00 in repairs by landlords and inspectors sent to all 5,000+ of the city's high-rise buildings.

That's what 6 years of tenant organizing by Toronto ACORN and countless hours of dedicated members have earned.

The City brought in an enhanced apartment inspection program developed after pressure from Toronto ACORN and tenant groups late last year and now estimate it has resulted in $100 millions in repairs by landlords.  Further, Municipal Licensing and Standards is now sending inspectors to all 5,000+ highrises across Toronto to perform basic audits to find and target the worst buildings for increased inspections.

The program falls short of the comprehensive system of landlord licensing that Toronto ACORN has long campaigned.  Toronto ACORN members have fought for a system with hard financial penalties on negligent  landlords who refuse to maintain their buildings up the legal code.  Toronto ACORN members have held community actions, rallied at city hall, given deputations, and held city wide housing forums to build public support and awareness of the Toronto’s deteriorating housing stock and the need for reform.

ACORN members remain proud of this tremendous progress that has been made and remain committed to working with the City to expand and improve the enhanced inspection program.

Tenants, allies join forces for tenant protection fee

On March 20th, Toronto ACORN held a forum with community leaders from across the city to renew our commitment to winning a proactive system of apartment inspection in the city.  ACORN members described to the 100+ person audience the long history of our housing campaigns in Toronto and the progress we’ve made up to this point.

At the municipal level, 7 City Councillors attended the event and all signed on to support the levying of a tenant protection fee on large landlords to fund a proactive inspection regime.  Further, they committed to support a motion coming before Council on March 31st that aims to ensure tenant input into any new apartment inspection system.

Unlike previous housing forums held by ACORN, this event included representatives from the Provincial government in support of enhancing provincial support for tenants.

Toronto ACORN is pursuing a meeting with the Minister of Housing, Jim Bradley to discuss our recommendation for provincial enhancements of the laws regulating apartment standards and new tools the municipalities could use to ensure fair housing for tenants.