Posted on December 22, 2020
A hardy group of tenants at Whitby’s White Oaks apartment buildings carried signs and braved freezing cold temperatures last week to protest rent increases they say are unfair.
Afroza Hussein, 55, a White Oaks tenant for the past decade, said her rent went up 7.8 per cent last year alone and is upset at landlord CAPREIT, the giant $12 billion Canadian real estate investment trust corporation that owns and operates Whitby’s White Oaks and many other buildings.
“It’s more than the rate of inflation. They have renovated the parking area but they wanted to raise the rent more than nine per cent,” Hussein said, arguing she and her fellow tenants had to go to court to hold the line at 7.8 per cent.
“People are not prepared,” for these increases, she said. She and her husband pay $1,500 a month for their three-bedroom unit at the Dundas Street West high-rise building.
Clive Bobb, 70, has been a tenant for 20 years at White Oaks. The pensioner said his rent has gone up 10 per cent in only the past two years and said his pension comes nowhere close to meeting those increases.
He said CAPREIT has made “a lot of changes, some good, some bad. There has been a lot of improvement within the building, they’ve spent money to improve the building, but the rent increases are too drastic; too much, it’s just gouging, gouging. I’m on a pension and I can’t afford to buy food,” he said.
Mark Kenney, CEO and president of CAPREIT, argued that three per cent maximum allowed for above guideline rental increases (AGI) are not enough to pay for the parking garage improvements and property tax assessment increases faced by the landlord for the White Oaks buildings. They “do not pay for the work that’s done,” he said.
He said CAPREIT did work on garages at White Oaks and that it’s been trying “to find a balance of doing the work or not doing the work. Before above guideline increases (were implemented) you had buildings in serious disrepair and (with) safety concerns,” he said.
Hussein said she had heard from some tenants who were struggling and some who said they were facing eviction, even with the COVID-19 pandemic looming.
“So many people are being evicted, people are calling and saying my rent is being increased, can you help me? I feel so frustrated,” she said.
“The greed… the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer,” she said about CAPREIT, citing a company report where Kenney said the trust company would be making a $200 million profit this coming quarter.
Kenney addressed that concern by saying CAPREIT is a huge organization and that $200 million represents a rate of return on investment of only 2.5 per cent.
“CAPREIT is a $12 billion entity, but $200 million is a very small return on investment, it’s a 2.5 per cent return on business. People love to pick these numbers because they’re sensationalized but it’s a very small return on business, it’s a very small margin.
“Who is this business for? The majority of our ownership pool are pensioners, the money flows back to pensioners,” Kenney said of CAPREIT, which owns about 100,000 housing units across Canada.
He also said CAPREIT is not evicting tenants so it can increase the rent for those who come into rent new units.
“Absolutely not. That’s unfair. That’s twisting something. We’re not evicting anyone who’s making an attempt to pay. This breaks down to somebody who is making no attempt to pay and who is making the excuse of COVID not to pay. I have no sympathy. People I have great sympathy for are those that are making an effort and those that have been highly impacted,” he said.
Article by Tim Kelly for DurhamRegion.com