London ACORN May 12 Webster Tenant Speakout Report
Posted May 15, 2023
On Friday, May 12, 2023, ACORN members and allies came together outside the 1270 and 1280 Webster buildings to organize a tenant speak out against the renovictions happening at these buildings, as well as the harassment and scare tactics tenants have been experiencing from the landlord.
Despite the owner and managements’ repeated threats that they would be calling police if tenants tried to organize on the property, ACORN members and allies came in droves to stand in solidarity with tenants. Quickly realizing their threats would not keep us out, several people who claimed to either be management, security, or representing the owner (their shady stories changed repeatedly) but refused to share their full names came out to harass people gathered for the action. Some of these “management” got in the faces of people, repeatedly saying that we needed to leave, that we were trespassing, and that they were calling the police. ACORN leaders were prepared for this, and reassured attendees that we were all fully in our rights to be there – Webster members had invited their allies to come, so every non-tenant in attendance was their guest. Chants in defiance of management filed the air:
“NO NO WE WON’T GO!
NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!”
Press was harassed to leave by management, with some even being blocked at the entrance of theproperty. Tenants came forward to make clear that these were their guests, and they would be coming to join us whether management liked it or not!
One of the shady “representatives of the owner” decided to take actions a step further, assaulting an elderly tenant in front of several cameras.
Members continued with the action, listing various fear mongering and intimidation tactics carried out by the owners and management, along with the misinformation sent to tenants with their eviction notices. “You DO NOT need to leave your unit by August 31st” declared Jordan Smith, one of London ACORN’s veteran leaders involved in the action, “You have a RIGHT to a hearing with the landlord and tenant board to decide whether you need to be evicted or not. You have a RIGHT to fight these evictions!”
Several tenants took turns speaking about their experiences with these evictions and how it negatively affected their lives. “We have nowhere else to go” said Melissa Chambers, a tenant of 1270 Webster “I’m on ODSP, I can’t afford $2000 rent.”
Local MPP Teresa Armstrong spoke in support of tenants experiencing these renovictions in Ontario, “Affordability is a huge issue. People can’t keep up with the cost of living, and when you’re faced with being pushed out of your affordable unit and then have to pay double, that’s not right!”
To resolve the conflict between Webster tenants and their landlord – whose name was still hidden behind the company name “Webster Apts Inc.” ACORN members compiled a list of demands:
1. Webster Apts Inc revokes ALL eviction notices and completes renovations without displacing tenants
2. More maintenance crew are hired for the buildings to complete regular maintenance and repairs in a timely manner
3. The landlord installs automated doors in both 1270 and 1280 Webster buildings to accommodate for the accessibility needs of tenants here
4. The owner of Webster Apts Inc issues a formal apology to tenants for putting them through this hardship
Members also stressed that there were several legislative changes city council and/or the province could implement to prevent this from happening in the future; namely, cities could implement landlord licencing and renoviction bylaws to restrict landlords from so easily taking advantage of low-income tenants, and the province could implement vacancy control, restricting landlords’ ability to jack up rent between tenants. Upon delivering their demand letter to the main office, members were told both by management and police that all non-tenants had to leave the building, and ACORN leader Jordan Smith was handed a “Trespassing notice” that was clearly just printed by the management, and not by police themselves. ACORN clearly got under their skin!
Despite all the hurdles thrown at us, ACORN members had a successful, peaceful action. Tenants were left feeling a sense of hope for the future and empowerment. There’s still lots of work to be done, but we know we have power in numbers!