Posted April 29, 2020
One in three Hamilton tenants say they won’t have enough money to pay their May rent because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a national survey conducted by ACORN Canada.
About 60 per cent of Hamilton tenants surveyed say they are worried about their ability to make the payment.
ACORN, an organization that represents the interests of low to moderate income Canadians, is launching a national campaign to persuade federal and provincial governments to adopt measures that will help protect vulnerable tenants.
The survey of 1,100 tenants across the country, including 123 from Hamilton, shows growing angst among renters as the economic consequences of the pandemic filter through the workforce. The Hamilton results mirror closely what was found at the national level.
About 70 per cent of survey respondents nationally say they have been impacted financially by the coronavirus outbreak yet only 42 per cent say they qualify for employment insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
Nearly one in six respondents say they have been threatened with eviction if their rent can’t be paid. In Ontario, landlords cannot evict anyone for nonpayment of rent during the pandemic.
“People are being left behind and it’s definitely going to be a struggle for everybody who isn’t able to get the help they need from the government,” said Mike Wood, chair of Hamilton ACORN.
ACORN Canada is calling on federal and provincial governments to provide rent subsidies immediately so tenants aren’t paying more than 30 per cent of their income on rents.
The organization is also calling for a rent freeze and to protect tenants from eviction for nonpayment of rent for an period that extends beyond the end of the pandemic.
Wood said he fears landlords may move swiftly once the pandemic is over to try to evict tenants who have built up arrears.
“How much are tenants going to fall behind on what they owe?” Wood said. “The longer this goes, the more they’re going to owe back and not be able to play the catch-up game.”
That’s exactly what Kim Guthro fears right now.
She lives in the inner city’s Ward 3 and has been on Ontario Works for more than two years. She’s been getting an extra subsidy since the coronavirus outbreak but she says it doesn’t cover the additional expenses she has for protective equipment, cleaning supplies and higher food costs.
Guthro said she’s behind on her utilities bill at the moment because she needed to pay her rent. Next month, it will be the reverse — she’ll have to pay her utilities and fall behind on rent.
“Juggling like that is going to catch up with me in the end,” said Guthro. “Once this is all over, I’m going to owe the landlord money no matter what. It’s just a continuing cycle.”
Wood said the goal of the action is to show governments that people are falling through the cracks.
“We need Doug Ford and Justin Trudeau to do the right thing and help everyone who is a renter,” Wood stated.
“We’re trying to get them to understand there are still people left out even with this CERB,” he added. “It’s not covering everybody for sure.”
ACORN isn’t the only group trying to put pressure on governments.
On the afternoon of May 1, a Keep Your Rent convoy of cars and trucks will wind its way through city streets in a call to action to support Hamilton tenants.
Vehicles will meet up at 1 p.m. in the parking lot at 111 Market St. across from Jackson Square and the convoy will pass through neighbourhoods that have been suggested by tenants. The route will be announced on the Keep Your Rent Facebook event page at noon on Apr. 30.
Article by Steve Buist for the Hamilton Spectator