Posted January 2, 2019
The search for decent, affordable apartments in Hamilton didn't get any easier this year as rents continued to spike.
Just staying put was touch-and-go for some tenants pressured by property owners angling to profit by vacating units, renovating and hiking rates.
In response, tenant rights advocates staged demonstrations, pushed the city to crack down on "renovictions" and protested provincial changes they said would compromise renters.
Meanwhile, CityHousing continued to struggle with a massive repair backlog as community non-profits aimed to remain viable after years of flatlined federal funding.
In short, 2019 goes down as a year of desperation for lower-income tenants in Hamilton. Here are some indicators The Spectator reported this year:
•Anti-poverty activists took aim at Premier Doug Ford's approach to the rental market through the More Homes, More Choices Act. Freeing new buildings from annual rent caps would force people to street, critics argued. The province contended that pivot, along with other disputed changes, would encourage additions to Ontario's static rental stock.
• The city was also the focus of tenant advocacy with Hamilton ACORN pushing for a rental registry and to end grants to landlords who "renovict" tenants. "I think it's disgusting. It's basically saying, 'We support you in what you're doing,'" local ACORN chair Mike Wood said.
• The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a study in July that showed a worker making Ontario's $14 minimum wage would have to work 54 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Hamilton. Working 40 hours a week, people would have to earn $18.99 to afford a one-bedroom unit in Hamilton.
• Hamilton's Social Planning and Research Council (SPRC) concluded the city was suffering from a "rental crisis" amid spiking rates and evictions. Rent in Hamilton shot up by 21 per cent, more than three times the rate of inflation, from 2015 to 2018, its study found. Evictions soared to 150 in 2018 compared to 95 four years earlier. "Renters are being squeezed in multiple ways and they have limited recourse in the very difficult rental market they are experiencing in Hamilton," report author Sara Mayo said.
• "Bad-faith" evictions remained an issue in Hamilton and Ontario, but it's notoriously tricky for tenants to prove landlords actually move into units after they serve them own-use notices. Stanley Williams managed to make the case, however, getting what was owed to him was another matter. The landlord, facing a contempt of court ruling, ultimately agreed to pay the 61-year-old a little more than $4,000 for his trouble.
• Applications to the Landlord and Tenant Board were processed at a glacial pace due to a shortage of adjudicators. The Ford government said it was addressing the backlog, but waits only got longer due to the staffing deficit. "What's happening is massive delays," said Sharon Crowe, a lawyer with the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.
• Large landlords angling for higher property values and profits found opposition in tenants who objected to long elevator shutdowns, shuttered laundry rooms, and off-limit balconies in summer. Owners said the repairs were necessary and asked for residents' patience. But Maria Antelo, of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, told tenants of one Mountain building she saw a pattern. "I just want to warn you that we've seen this happen, and people get tired and they leave."
• A rent strike that Stoney Creek Towers tenants started in May 2018 to demand repairs to units and resist an above-guideline increase concluded this year. The Landlord and Tenant Board ultimately ruled CLV and owner InterRent could pass on $2.57 million in capital expenditures to tenants via a 4.4 per cent hike over two years on top of the regular annual increases.
• Tenants of a neglected King Street East multiplex balked at their new landlord's buyout offer to leave despite the squalor in hopes of a better deal. "I want to move out, but I want the right amount of money and the right agreement," said Edith Hardman, whose family paid $1,200 for a leaky, mouldy, two-bedroom basement unit.
Article by Teviah Moro for the Hamilton Spectator