The Record: Activists start local ACORN tenants’ union chapter
Posted May 24, 2023
KITCHENER — Activists have started a local chapter of a national tenants’ union.
The local chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now union is meant to educate tenants on their rights and create solidarity among anyone who cares about housing, said co-organizer Megan Ruttan.
Ruttan has been fighting an eviction from her home since November 2021.
Henry Walser Funeral Home wants to add a crematorium and additional parking to its location on Frederick Street. This means Ruttan’s home along with two other properties would be demolished.
“While I was fighting to keep my home, I found out that not only do renters not know their rights, but landlords don’t know their rights. Local politicians don’t know their rights,” said Ruttan.
Ruttan and Sam Nabi, a local activist and owner of grocery store Full Circle Foods and Brooklin Wallis, who ran unsuccessfully for Kitchener’s Ward 9 in the 2022 election, organized the ACORN chapter.
ACORN Canada is an independent organization with more than 160,000 members in neighbourhood chapters across 9 cities. In Ontario, there are local chapters in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Peel and London.
On Saturday morning, Ruttan and Nabi stood behind a table in the Kitchener Farmer’s Market and greeted passersby, getting people to sign a petition and sign up as a member.
Less than an hour after setting up, the pair had collected about 15 signatures.
Members can choose to pay $15 per month so that the union can be fully independent, said Ruttan.
“We need a proper tenants’ union where we can take direct action and make sure we act in solidarity so that we can have that power,” said Ruttan.
Some interested people told the organizers personal stories about high rental prices and tenants’ rights.
Kitchener ranks fifth for median one-bedroom rental prices at $1,880, according to a May 11 report by Zumper, a rental website that tracks rental prices across the country.
Vancouver ($2,600) and Toronto ($2,400) rank the highest.
Ruttan hopes the chapter will ensure landlords “don’t feel comfortable evicting people for whatever reason,” and protect tenants from exploitation.
“We just need to act in solidarity because landlords are taking advantage of the way housing has gone down,” she said.
The group will host their first virtual meeting on May 25 at 6:30 p.m.
“People power works,” said Ruttan.
“There’s a lot we can do together.”
The local chapter is in collaboration with the Social Development Centre.
Article by Cheyenne Bholla for The Record