Posted November 16, 2021
A group of downtown Hamilton tenants and housing advocates are calling on a local developer to halt evictions that they say will disproportionately affect racialized and low-income residents.
Dozens of people rallied in front of 192 Hughson St. N. on Monday afternoon, carrying signs calling for the end of “renovictions” and “demovictions” — tactics that housing advocates say landlords use to get tenants out and raise rents under the guise of repairs.
The Beasley highrise, along with 181 John St. N., make up Ventura Towers, which were taken over by Hamilton-based Valery Group — the parent company of Valery Homes and Valery Properties — in mid-October.
Speaking to the crowd, longtime tenant Terry Ross said more than a dozen residents residing on the first six floors of both buildings were given notice earlier this month that their units will be demolished and tenants will have to move out by March 2022.
In letters provided to The Spectator, Valery Properties alerted tenants on Oct. 14, 2021, that they would be assuming management of the buildings effective immediately.
Then, just three weeks later on Nov. 1, more than a dozen tenants living on the first six floors of each building were given notice from Valery that the highrises would be undergoing “extensive renovation” and their floor would “not be reasonably fit for habitation.”
Residents and activists are reflected in a front window of 192 Hughson Ave. N. on Monday as they protested.
In a statement to The Spectator, Valery Group director of marketing Dyna Teal said the buildings “will be undergoing a demolition to produce 200 new rental units to help assist with the Hamilton housing shortage.”
Valery then offered those tenants “compensation packages” which would then end their tenancy at the apartment complex. The company offered tenants three different options, ranging from $20,000 to $10,000, each with its own required move-out date.
Tenants were given until Nov. 8 to pick a package, and if none was chosen, they would then be issued an N13 eviction notice, according to the letter. N13 notices are the Ontario eviction form for demolitions, repairs or conversion of rental units.
Vanessa Jeffrey, a tenant advocate, moderated a rally for residents.
Then, on Nov. 9, tenants were again offered compensation packages, which they had until Nov. 15 to accept.
If they didn’t, their eviction notice for March 8, 2022, “would stand,” according to the company.
Teal said Valery Properties is “going over and above” what is required under tenant legislation in the province, while claiming their “generous packages” offer tenants “considerably greater compensation than what is legally required.”
Speaking to the crowd, Gachi Issa of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, said some residents of the building, which face language barriers, “did not understand what was going on” before they signed the agreements.
Gachi Issa from the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic speaks at a rally for residents from buildings on Hughson and John streets.
She noted that most of the residents impacted by the evictions are racialized and low-income.
Lyndon George, executive director of Hamilton’s Anti-Racism Resource Centre, said affected tenants have expressed worry about where they’ll find a place to live amid an affordable housing crisis in the city.
“It was heartbreaking to hear that, but that’s the reality of the situation,” said George.
During the rally, tenants hand-delivered a letter to the building office calling on Valery to have a meeting with residents in order to “find a solution that does not result in tenants being permanently displaced from their homes and neighbourhood.”
Marie Clark, 83, is a resident of 192 Hughson Ave. N., where activists and residents rallied Monday to protest planned evictions, including hers.
Longtime resident Marie Clark, 83, is one of tenants facing eviction. The senior told the crowd that she has had to contend with bedbugs and no heat in the building.
“It’s not very good,” said Clark.
Article by Fallon Hewitt for the Hamilton Spectator