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The London Free Press: London highrise tenants face 23 per cent rent hike: ‘Unfair’ - ACORN Canada

The London Free Press: London highrise tenants face 23 per cent rent hike: ‘Unfair’

Posted March 1, 2024

Tenants in a London highrise have been hit with a rent increase of nearly $400 a month, a more than 23 per cent rent hike, forcing some to search for a new home and finding not much available.

Tenants in a London highrise have been hit with a rent increase of nearly $400 a month, a 23 per cent hike, forcing some to search for a new home and finding not much available.

Rent for some residents at 25 Centre St. in south London will jump to $2,000 a month from slightly more than $1,600 for a two-bedroom unit, and they are scrambling to fight the increase.

“It’s really frustrating. We both work, but this is a lot more money and there’s no way I can pay $2,000 with our jobs,” said Julieth Navarro who lives in the highrise near the intersection of Wharncliffe Road and Base Line roads with her husband.

They will have to find additional work, or move in with her family, Navarro said. The rent was $1,500 a month when they moved into their apartment in August 2022. It increased last year to $1,625 and will jump to $2,000 a month in August.

“No one can help us. I’ve been calling many places, but landlords can do what they want,” Navarro said.

The increase is allowed because the highrise was built after 2018, meaning there aren’t any rent controls on the property.

Sheila Sacramento has created a Facebook group for tenants of 25 Centre St. to “brainstorm” ideas on how to fight the hike. She lives with her husband and 20-month-old daughter and they also pay for day care while they both work.

“We’re looking for a new place, but we don’t know what we’ll do. It will be very difficult for us. I’ll have to find more work, find another job,” Sacramento said. “I’m stressed, I can’t sleep. I’m frustrated.”

The 11-storey tower at 25 Centre St. has 84 apartments, 47 one-bedroom units and 37 two-bedroom units. The rent for one-bedroom units will increase by 2.5 per cent because they are affordable units and fall under rent control, but the two-bedroom units will be subject to a significant rate increase.
Building owner Jonathan Leahy, of JLC Homes, said the increases are needed because his costs have risen due to inflation and he is limited on how much he can increase rents on his one-bedroom affordable units.

“The increase to $2,000 is still below the average rent in London now” for two-bedroom apartments, he said.

Leahy cites inflation, property tax increases, interest rate increases and the rising cost of utilities, insurance, repairs and maintenance as reasons more rent is needed on the apartments built in 2021.

“If we’re not raising rents, we will lose money. I’m not making a fortune here.”
Leahy also owns an eight-storey tower next door at 45 Centre St. built before 2018 with 61 units in total, 46 one-bedroom units and 15 two-bedroom apartments. Those two-bedroom apartments also will increase to $2,000 a month when they become vacant as they are under rent control now, he said.

“There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s supply and demand economics. Repairs and maintenance and even snow removal have all gone up. It’s unbelievable,” Leahy said.
“I know it’s a big increase, but it does not go in my pocket.”

That is little comfort to Kellen Hill, who lives with his partner and three-year-old daughter and whose rent will increase from to $2,000 a month from $1,625 in May.

He moved in in February 2022, and was paying $1,500.

“We’re going to have to look at moving again. It’s not viable, long term. I’m feeling kind of trapped,” he said. “I’m worried it will go up again next year. I have a lot of anxiety, a lot of uncertainty, I feel abandoned.”

Nawton Chiles, co-chairperson of the Carling-Stoneybrook chapter of ACORN, a tenants’ rights group in the city, agrees tenants have few options, but urged them to form a “tenants’ union” so they can advocate and press the Ontario government for greater rent control.

“It doesn’t mean they’re powerless. They can lobby for legislative change,” he said. “There is power in numbers and we have a housing crisis here. It’s a very dire circumstance.”

Significant rent hikes are becoming more common across the city and Chiles questions Leahy’s explanation of rising costs.
“Raising rent is his choice. If he did not, he would make less money and he would keep people in their homes.”

Both Centre Street towers also are for sale.

Leahy is hoping to break ground later this year on a 14-storey tower at 852 Commissioners Rd. E., near Adelaide Street.

Vanessa Diniz, who lives in a two-bedroom unit with her three children, recently received a letter stating her rent will increase to $2,000 a month from $1,650.

”This is a huge and unfair increase,” she wrote in an email. “We deserve to live in decent and affordable housing, and we should not be forced out of our homes.”

Article by Norman De Bono for The London Free Press