The Grid: Jane & Finch residents rally for better housing conditions

Mold, roaches and bedbugs among the many grievances protested by community residents yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon, members of the non-profit organization ACORN [Canada] (The Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, Canada) and tenants from the Jane and Finch community came together to raise awareness for “the right to liveable housing,” pushing for increased landlord accountability. “You need a licence to open a bar, but not to rent out housing,” an ACORN speaker explained. “That often leaves the question of accountability unanswered. We want to see more inspections and better maintenance of the buildings.”
Hearing tenants describe their living situation is not unlike watching ’90s gross-out comedy Joe’s Apartment, only minus the jokes. Twenty-one-year old York University student and ACORN [Canada] member Michael MacDonald moved into his apartment two years ago and has amassed an extensive list of grievances, including cockroaches that regularly scurry away when the lights turn on, elevators that have exposed gear and that tend to jump when crowded, and plumbing.

But MacDonald says he’s got it good compared to neighbouring families whose bathrooms will flood once a week; rather than taking care of the problem once and for all, the landlord’s “cheap, band-aid solutions” result in the water in the building is shut off for maintenance on a regular basis, according to MacDonald. For the amount of rent the tenants pay—$1,330 for a three-bedroom apartment in MacDonald’s case—such neglect is inexcusable. When ACORN knocked on MacDonald’s door recently and asked what issues he saw with the building, he realized that his problems were shared by a whole community.

Theresa, single mother of two young girls, first approached ACORN herself, fed up with her living situation. Even though she isn’t part of the Jane and Finch community, she is facing the same issues. “I live in the Toronto Community Housing in the East Mall area and have to deal with mold, roaches and bedbugs.”

As a result, Theresa has had to throw out clothes and furniture, do laundry constantly and is scared to fall asleep knowing that the bugs are in the room somewhere. All this is costing money, money that she doesn’t have. And just as with MacDonald, her landlord is not investing in a sustainable solution. “Someone sprayed the apartment but the bedbugs came back”, Theresa says. “The only reason I’m still there is because I can’t afford to move.”

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