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Ottawa Community News: ‘Treated like dirt’: Herongate tenants oppose above-guideline rent hikes - ACORN Canada

Ottawa Community News: ‘Treated like dirt’: Herongate tenants oppose above-guideline rent hikes

Posted July 12, 2016

‘Treated like dirt’: Herongate tenants oppose above-guideline rent hikes

Posted July 12, 2016

Alex Laffin and his family have their backs to the wall – one that actually has a hole in it.
The Herongate resident says he, his wife and their seven-year-old son, William, are at risk of becoming homeless due to a rent hike this year for their one-bedroom apartment at 2870 Cedarwood Dr., where they have lived for 14 years.
“We can’t afford to go anywhere else,” said Laffin. “If I move, I’ll be homeless.”
Their unit is one of about 350 that could see its rent raised this year by five per cent – above the standard allowable two-per-cent annual increase. 
Tenants have been told the hike – which would work out to about $50 for some – will help offset $10 million in renovations and upgrades Timbercreek Communities made to the balconies, windows and underground parking garages at four high rises on Baycrest and Cedarwood drives.
“When these expenses are incurred, an allowable rent increase would take those expenses into account. It will not recover anywhere near the full cost, but it will recover some of the cost,” said David Lyman, a lawyer with Ottawa-based Dickie & Lyman Lawyers.
He will be representing Timbercreek when the company’s rent increase application is heard by the Landlord Tenant Board on July 15. Because the hike is higher than the 2016 two-per-cent guideline increase, it must be approved.
The board will calculate any increase based on how much Timbercreek spent on the property.
Lyman is anticipating that an approximately nine per cent increase can be phased in.
“So this application could affect the rents for the next three years,” Lyman said.
“I expect the over $10 million worth of expenses in the two applications affecting the four buildings would justify the increase that would be in excess of nine per cent.”
The boost will bring those units closer to market rates. Hundreds of other renters are already paying rates closer to market value and their rents won’t be affected by this application, Lyman said.
“What we’re doing is well within the guidelines and many of the residents in the rent-control system are still far below what market is today,” said Colleen Krempulec, Timbercreek’s executive director of marking.
The company has made “significant, heavy investments” since it bought the property four years ago, she said. “We’re doing it because we’re committed to the community.”
Laffin said residents didn’t ask for those exterior upgrades.
“Sure, it makes the building look nice to attract new tenants to move in, but what about us?” he said as he marched in protest against the rent hikes with about two-dozen tenants and members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as ACORN, on July 11.
It is challenging to get repairs and renovations done in individual units, said Laffin.
His kitchen sink backed up and flooded the floor two and three times a day for many years, up until two months ago, and his family also waited two years for plumbing repairs before they could shower and bathe in hot water.
“I forgot what life was like with a hot bath,” he said.
When that was finally repaired, workers left behind a hole in the wall that is still there.
Laffin and his wife, who relies on disability payments, can barely pay their current rent of $897. The stress is mounting as they face a higher than usual rent increase.
“If I don’t get a job in three months, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.
Mavis Finnamore, who lived in a Timbercreek property in Herongate for 30 years before she was evicted earlier this year with more than 50 other families to make room for a new development, said given Timbercreek’s poor maintenance record, “they have a lot of gall asking for a rent increase above the recommended level.”
“What this is going to do is put more pressure on people to use food banks,” the longtime ACORN chapter leader said.
“Poor people don’t deserve to be treated like dirt,” Finnamore told the crowd of peaceful protesters. 
Richard Raftus has lived in the same building as Laffin for 12 years. He pays $914 for a one bedroom, but will have to pay $947 starting September.
“I’d be looking into moving somewhere else or cutting back on something, like cable or Internet,” he said, but added he can’t afford to skim more dollars from an already tight budget.
“I’m pretty well down to the bare bones as it is,” Raftus said.
He has been waiting at least two years for action on 10 outstanding repair orders, for jobs such as broken closet doors. He was told his unit is so old and need of renovations, that he should relocate to a renovated unit.
That will mean a higher rent because hydro won’t be included.
“If you’re going to raise the rent that much, show us something,” Raftus said. “Do something for us, not just whatever the city mandates you to do what you should have done in the first place.”
But Timbercreek’s representative rejected the claim that repairs were city-ordered, and said repairs are a priority and the turn-around time varies depending on the extent of the work.
“Maintaining our properties and ensuring resident satisfaction is an absolute priority for us,” said Krempulec.
Article by Erin McCracken for Ottawa Community News