Posted November 25, 2019
At 80, Bob Smith figures he "might" be able to walk down the steps from his seventh-floor apartment to the lobby of his east Mountain building. "And crawl back up."
Smith jokes, but like the many older residents of 977 Mohawk Rd. E., he's concerned about not having an elevator for four to six weeks. "I don't know how often I'm going to be able to do it."
In addition to the looming elevator maintenance work, the building's new property manager has shut down the laundry room, and advised tenants to expect "an immense amount of dust, construction noise, intermittent water shut-offs and electrical shut downs."
Meanwhile, residents complain about cold apartments, cockroaches and holes punched through their ceilings and floors to install washer-dryer machines in other units that are renovated and re-rented at higher rates.
The pattern is familiar, Maria Antelo, a community developer worker at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, told tenants during a meeting at the building on Saturday that Coun. Tom Jackson attended.
"I just want to warn you that we've seen this happen, and people get tired and they leave," Antelo said.
Marilyn Love said she hasn't accepted Drake's offer of $2,500 to leave. "For one thing, I wouldn't get into a cheaper apartment than I have now," said Love, 65, who gets by on $1,100 a month.
Tenants' rights advocates have blamed "financialized" landlords for pushing long-term residents out of their homes for investor profit and driving up rents in Hamilton.
Two Sevens Capital Management Ltd. and Pulis Real Estate are partners in the plan to increase rents and revenue through the Mohawk building.
A memorandum online notes the business model is to "acquire an older building and bring it up to modern condo quality taste and standards."
"The target market" is millennials, "who rent for lifestyle reasons" or "financially are just short of making the jump to home ownership."
Kyle Pulis, president of the Brampton-based firm, said in an email to The Spectator the landlord manages "buildings to the highest standards and are the furthest from slumlords or misbehaved landlords."
He called the $2,500 offer "financial assistance, among other services, to tenants who choose not to live through these upgrades and decide to move out."
Pulis added:" We know that the elevator shut down and other outages, regardless of how necessary they are, make living in the building difficult. Thus we try and work with our tenants and assist them through this process as best as we can."
The work "must be done," he said. "Any further delay in these upgrades will lead to further deterioration and future health and safety concerns."
Residents of 977 Mohawk Rd. E. say the laundry room was closed and turned into a small gym shortly after the property changed hands in April.
"So everybody can get thinner, but you've got to keep your dirty clothes on," Jackson cracked sarcastically Saturday.
Jan Northcotte, 64, said she takes a load of dirty clothes by bus to the laundromat and another to her daughter's place. "It's very frustrating."
Jackson said municipal law enforcement conducted a "blitz" of the building, which had resulted in several property violation notices.
Pulis said the firm was notified of the work orders Thursday evening and the deficiencies were immediately scheduled for repair. "We were not notified by the tenants of these issues previous."
Jackson said he'd follow up with city staff about other tenant complaints, including a wire hanging from a ceiling panel in the lobby.
Hamilton ACORN, which helped organize Saturday's meeting, asked a representative of the property manager to leave so the tenants would feel comfortable airing their beefs.
The advocacy group wants the city to track buyouts, halt grants for developers that displace tenants and create other measures to protect affordable units.
Jackson suggested there may be ways to give municipal law enforcement an "expanded role" in rental buildings. "That's the kind of area that I would start with."
The city has created a "tenant defence fund" that provides financial assistance to applicants with legal battles before the Landlord and Tenant Board.
A recent national report noted Hamilton saw a 24.4 per cent spike in apartment rental rates over the past years, which was the highest increase in Canada.
The survey by Rentals.ca, an online apartment listing service, found the city's average monthly rent was $1,553 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,561 for a two-bedroom.
CORRECTION: This article was updated Nov. 23, 2019 with comments from the landlord and a correction was made to fix the estimated time of the elevator outage to four to six weeks.
Article by Teviah Moro for the Hamilton Spectator