Hamilton ACORN wins expanding Tenant Defense Fund to cover renovictions - and next steps

Posted April 23, 2021

Hamilton, Ontario -  In December 2020 a motion was passed unanimously at the Emergency and Community Services committee for "staff (to) report back to the E&CS by end of March on renovictions and what other jurisdictions have done and what the City of Hamilton can do to mitigate". This report was pushed back a month to the April 22nd committee meeting.
 
Since January 2021, ACORN leaders have met Councillors & city staff to discuss municipal powers and tools to restrict renoviction and the urgency for the city to act.
 
In February, ACORN held a 80 person virtual forum with local allies & invited Councillor Jaimie McEvoy from New Westminster, British Columbia to speak about the strong anti-renoviction policy his city passed in 2019. ACORN also met with city staff from New Westminster to learn about their anti-renoviction / landlord licensing program.
 
The staff report was released on April 14th, 9 days before the Emergency and Community Services committee. 
 
The staff report "Tenant Defense Fund" lacked the bold action Hamilton tenants and allies were counting on.
 
ACORN since August 2020 have been calling on the City of Hamilton to:
 
  • Follow the lead of New Westminster, BC and implement a anti-renoviction by-law / landlord licensing program to restrict renoviction & incentivize landlords to keep their buildings in good repair
  • Expand and make permanent the Tenant Defense Fund to support tenants facing displacement
  • Develop a proactive tenant education program
The staff report included these recommendations:
 
(a) That the Tenant Defence Fund Program be expanded and amended to include tenants being displaced due to evictions as a result of renovations; 
 
(b) That the Tenant Defence Fund grant amount eligible to tenants for legal fees be increased to $2,500; 
 
(c) That the Outstanding Business List item identified as Mitigation Effects of Renovictions, be removed from the Outstanding Business List and considered complete. 
 
Yesterday before the Emergency and Community ACORN held a 40 person press conference to respond to the report and lay out our recommendations moving forward led by ACORN leaders Dayna Sparkes, Marnie Schurter and Darlene Wesley.
 
1) ACORN urges the Emergency and Community Services committee to direct Housing and Planning staff to initiate a comprehensive study on the feasibility of a city wide landlord licensing program to restrict renoviction & ensure landlords keep their properties in good repair
 
2) ACORN supports expanding the Tenant Defense Fund to cover N13 eviction applications but more consultation is needed with the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic and ACORN to ensure the program is successful.
 
3) Implement a proactive tenant education program to reach tenants at risk of displacement.
 
Following the press conference, 15 ACORN members and allies delegated at the committee, plus 6 written submissions.
 
ACORN was supported by Just Recovery Coalition partners - Environment Hamilton, Hamilton Community and Legal Clinic, YWCA, Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, and Hamilton Community Benefits Network. The First Unitarian Church of Hamilton also delegated in support of ACORN’s recommendations. 
 
Three motions were passed yesterday at the committee:
 
1) Remove cap on Tenant Defense Fund applications & expand to cover renovictions.
 
2) Send a letter to the Landlord and Tenant Board & related Minister to share concerns on rise of N13 use in Hamilton
 
3) That staff be directed to report back with a framework, including timeline and resources to develop a comprehensive renovictions strategy for City of Hamilton as part of our recovery plan, to include, evaluation of the tenant defense fund, proactive tenant education options and a licensing and by-law regime.
 
ACORN is pleased to see the Tenant Defense Fund expand and increase funding available. This will provide immediate assistance to low income and vulnerable renters who face a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board. 
 
For motion 3, ACORN looks forward to continuing to work with Councillors, city staff and community partners to make Hamilton a leader in Ontario in protecting tenants & market affordable housing from renoviction. 
 
To read our full recommendations and background information on renovictions in Hamilton, please read our report: Renovictions in Hamilton
 
 
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