Toronto.com: Etobicoke tenants protest to demand better treatment from landlords
Posted August 16, 2018
ACORN held rally at 2677 Kipling Avenue in North Etobicoke
Posted August 16, 2018
As a longtime tenant of Humberview Towers, Frank Yearwood has learned to always keep a 20-gallon jug of water under the counter in case of an emergency water shortage — an occurrence he alleges has taken place all too frequently during his seven-year tenancy at the north Etobicoke high-rise.
“Sometimes there’s no hot water, and sometimes you get no water at all. And I would say at least half the tenants in the building have the same problem,” Yearwood said of the living conditions at 2677 Kipling Ave. during an interview with The Etobicoke Guardian on Aug. 14.
“When I called one evening last year to find out why I didn’t have any water, the super said to me, ‘OK, Frank, give me 10 minutes and I’ll turn it back on.’
“They’re turning the water off on us! We pay our rent to be happy, not to be miserable, and (the landlords) are taking no responsibility for what they’re doing. Enough is enough.”
Fed up by the alleged mistreatment, Yearwood was one of about 50 protesters who took part in an ACORN-organized rally in north Etobicoke on Saturday, Aug. 11, to demand repairs to his building as well as three others along Kipling Avenue — including 2667 and 2677 Kipling Ave., which are owned by Humber Property Management, and Wynn Group Residential’s buildings at 2737 and 2757 Kipling Ave.
ACORN — or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — is an independent organization of low- and moderate-income families that strives to achieve social and economic justice for its 102,000 members nationwide.
The list of demands compiled by ACORN on behalf of the rallying Kipling Avenue tenants included providing hot water and high pressure all day, fixing the elevators, dealing with basic repairs on time, ridding the buildings of roaches and bed bugs, treating tenants with respect, and putting a stop to unfair AC fees and unaffordable rent increases, among other issues.
“We hope that these complaints are taken seriously now,” said Peter D’Gama, who helped organize the Aug. 11 rally as co-chair of ACORN’s Etobicoke branch.
“I think this rally, it’s a sign that the tenants are getting organized, and I think it’s a very positive sign. We at ACORN, what we’re trying to do is organize tenants so that landlords are forced to act, so that the city is forced to act and so that these problems will get fixed.”
If not, D’Gama — who’s currently registered to run for city councillor in Ward 1 — said the tenants will be forced to consider taking action like the rent strike recently undertaken by tenants in Flemingdon Park.
Allistair Trent, a real estate agent who’s licensed to provide paralegal services to Humber Property Management, said his clients were taken aback by the Aug. 11 rally outside their buildings at 2667 and 2677 Kipling Ave.
“We were a little bit surprised by the whole thing, to be quite honest with you. The landlord has been working with ACORN — in fact, we’ve been giving ACORN the meeting room to hold their monthly meetings at no charge. It seems to me that if we were trying to suppress tenants’ rights and all that, we’d hardly be doing that,” he said, noting that he has tentatively arranged for Humber Property Management’s vice-president of operations to sit down with tenants and ACORN representatives next Wednesday, Aug. 22, to discuss their concerns.
Trent also argued that Humber Property Management has been working closely with the city in recent years to complete upgrades to their buildings. Many of those repairs — which include the recent installation of new elevators at both Humber buildings — are being funded, he said, because of Humber Property Management’s participation in Toronto’s Open Door Affordable Housing Program.
Approved by city council in 2016, the program aims to accelerate affordable housing construction by providing city-funded financial contributions, including capital funding and property tax relief.
“This is one of the landlords that’s already taking proactive measures to go and get the government grants and not increase the rents, so this protest seems to have been inappropriately targeted,” he said, attributing Yearwood’s water issues to many of his fellow tenants’ installation of illegal washing machines in their apartments.
Refuting that claim as a “lie,” Yearwood vowed to continue to fight for his neighbours — many of whom he said are new immigrants unaware of their rights as tenants.
“I am a man of God, and I never start a fight that isn’t righteous,” said Yearwood, a minister for Light and Life Ministries. “This is a righteous fight. What they’re doing to people is wrong, and I pray that it doesn’t continue.”
Article by Cynthia Reason for Toronto.com