Toronto ACORN

Toronto ACORN was founded in 2004, with the first organized group in Canada being formed in Weston / Mt Dennis after tenants took their slum-lord to task and won $250,000 in rent abatements.  In the next ten years Toronto ACORN spread to every part of the city leading the fight and winning significant victories including raising the minimum wage; strengthening of the enforcement of apartment building standards; regulating the payday loan industry in Canada; and countless improvements in our neighbourhoods.  In the next year we plan to fight for a new Residential Tenancy Act; to turn up the heat on predatory lenders that sell consolidation loans; to continue our fight to get the city of Toronto to license all landlords in the city; and to keep the pressure on to close the digital divide.

Toronto ACORN has local meetings in your neighbourhood and they are always open for new people to get involved. Join Toronto ACORN now!

 

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Toronto ACORN wins commitment for new housing bylaw

April 1st - Toronto ACORN board members held a private meeting with the new Chair of the city’s Licensing and Standards Committee, Councillor Cesar Palacio.  Licensing and Standards is the Committee that oversees apartment inspection and Toronto ACORN members spoke to the need for new municipal bylaws that would more rigidly define landlords’ responsibility for maintaining Toronto’s aged and deteriorating housing stock.

Councillor Palacio promised to work closely with our members in the coming months to write, amend, and introduce new apartment standards bylaws aimed at improving standards for tenants.

Carmen Respondek, a board member from East York had this to say following the meeting: “We need to change the law.  In a city with half its population renting, there needs to be more legal protection for tenants so landlords are held accountable.”

Now Magazine: The True TCHC Scandal

It’s a windy Tuesday (March 15) afternoon at the corner of Eglinton Ave. and Markham Rd. in Scarborough. It feels much colder than the forecasted six degrees – but you’d never know by the energetic group that has gathered here.

People chant and wave handmade signs: “Cockroaches don’t pay rent!”, “Revitalize don’t privatize,” and “TCHC: Show us the money!” while others urge passersby to “Honk for better housing.”

As the media frenzy surrounding the TCHC spending scandal continues, tenants at 3171 and 3181 Eglinton Ave. E. want to turn attention away from chocolates and spa dates. What’s happening here gets to the guts of TCHC’s problems — poor service to the tenant’s it’s serving.

This collection of tenants, some of whom are members of ACORN Canada, a community organization dedicated to justice for low and moderate-income families, have invited mayor Rob Ford and city councillor Gary Crawford today to see their living conditions – and to ask when real improvements will be made under new management. Neither show

Toronto Sun: Boy shivers because of broken window at TCHC building

Ryan Elsherif has to wear three layers of clothing and triple up on the blankets to get to sleep because the bedroom window at his Toronto Community Housing Corp. apartment has been broken for two months.

“It is just so cold at night. Sometimes I come out and sleep on the couch but I hate that because it is so hard,” said Ryan, 11, who lives at 3171 Eglinton Ave. E.

“I think they are lazy. They aren’t doing anything else even though they have a whole lot to do around here,” he said Wednesday.

Ryan’s mother, Leslie Schofield, said she has been to the TCHC offices numerous times to get the window repaired. It broke while there was a flood in the building.

“The property manager has seen it and just keeps saying we will get back to you and they don’t. It makes me feel terrible that my son has had to put up with this,” said Schofield, who works six hours a week as a lunchroom supervisor at her son’s school. “I wish I could stop paying my rent, but it gets paid directly through Ontario Works.”

Jeffrey Ferrier, a spokesman for TCHC said they dispatched staff to meet with Schofield Wednesday afternoon and discovered the inside pane is intact and the outside pane is broken but will be fixed “shortly” buy the property management company Fengate.

“We have also met with representatives of the private company that manages the building on our behalf to make sure that they understand the need to act quickly to fix problems like this,” Ferrier said in an e-mail.

But it is outrageous that these kinds of conditions exist in Toronto, said Natalie Hundt with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now [Canada].

“The level of neglect for livable, affordable housing in this city is unacceptable and shameful,” Hundt said. “Mayor Ford has been talking a lot about restoring public confidence in TCHC and ACORN [Canada] is using this opportunity to draw attention to the deplorable conditions in the buildings with the hope that something might now change.”

Ferrier said the window was one of several issues raised by the buildings tenants and TCHC staff will be at the building next Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. to hear those concerns.

You can read the original article at: http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2011/03/16/17641511.html

Inside Toronto: TCH residents share stories of poor living conditions, safety problems


For about two months now, Ryan Elsherif, 11, has had to look at the world outside his Scarborough bedroom through a shattered window.

"We had to go out and buy a heater and it's still pretty cold at night," the boy said Tuesday as tenants of two public housing highrises invited reporters to see conditions there.

In Ryan's case, his bedroom carpet was a casualty of a flood that drove him out of the ground floor unit at 3171 Eglinton Ave. E. he shares with his mother, Lesley Schofield, for a week.

When the boy returned, he saw the window was broken.

Schofield said she's made five trips to the management office for the building but the window is still broken, parquet tiles near the apartment's kitchen are loose or missing, and radiator covers Schofield said must be replaced lie on the floor.

Management employees who visit, the part-time lunchroom supervisor charged, "just jot things in a book, and forget about it."

Toronto Sun: Ontario toughens welfare diet rules


Extra cash for chronically ill welfare recipients to eat healthy will be harder to get starting April 1 under new rules designed to combat fraud and comply with an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruling -- changes that are making some sick people nervous.

"We really do not want to disadvantage people who need the special diet allowance, people who are ill and who need that extra money to live with their illness or condition," Rebecca MacKenzie, a spokesman for Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur said.

"At the same time, fraud is unacceptable," she said. "Fraud that happens hurts everyone else who is in the program for the correct reasons."

As of April, recipients of the special diet allowance will all have to reapply for the program, consent to have their relevant medical records checked and have their applications signed by a doctor or registered nurse practitioner, nutritionist or midwife.

As well, there are changes to the rates people with different conditions would be paid, with some afflictions getting less money or delisted altogether.

Those changes were the result of the human rights case in which patients with conditions such as diabetes or obesity that did not qualify for the program sued.

The tribunal ruled in their favour so the province set up a panel of medical experts to recommend which conditions would qualify.

MacKenzie said while people with some conditions may qualify for less money, many will qualify for more.

But Edward Lantz is nervous.

Member Profile: Natalie Hundt

Natalie Hundt is a student, activist and mother of two daughters, ages 6 and 9. She was born in Kitchener but raised internationally, giving her the opportunity to study health and sociology in Europe. Upon returning to Canada in 2006, Natalie discovered that her credentials are not recognized in Canada, posing major obstacles to employment and forcing her to move to a low-income high-rise apartment building in Scarborough.

In 2006, Natalie received a knock on her door from a Toronto ACORN organizer who asked her if she had any issues in the building or the neighborhood. Ms. Hundt was so frustrated with the unresponsive property management company that she joined the organization immediately with the hope that something could be done.

Natalie quickly became a leader in her local Toronto ACORN chapter that was working to fix her apartment building, and has seen how powerful organized tenants can be in affecting change. She has since attended community meetings, rallies, deputized at city hall, spoken at town halls, and Toronto ACORN leadership schools, and built her knowledge of legislative government at all three levels. This knowledge, combined with her enthusiasm for tenant organizing has equipped Natalie with the ability and confidence she needed to take a real leadership role in her community.

Toronto Star: Immigrants gouged on money transfers

December 10th, 2010 by Carol Goar in the Toronto Star

They fought to get their landlords to clean up their cockroach-infested apartments and won. They fought to get payday lenders to lower their astronomical borrowing rates and won. Now ACORN Canada, a network of low-income Canadians, is embarking on its most ambitious project.

It has just launched a campaign to get North American banks to reduce the “predatory” fees they charge immigrants and migrant workers to transfer money to their families back home.

ACORN made its first move Monday. It released a report showing the rates charged by Canada’s chartered banks, their American counterparts and two money-transfer companies to send $100 to various destinations.

The figures were startling. Fees ranged from $3.70 to $66.25 (not including the pickup charges usually imposed at the receiving end).

Here is a sample, using a transfer of $100 from Toronto to Mexico:

• MoneyGram, which has the lowest fees, charges between $3 and $10 (depending on the service and destination) plus an exchange rate fee of 70 cents for a maximum total of $10.70.

New report on affordable housing

Dec. 1, 2010 - ACORN Canada was disappointed with the release Monday of Premier McGuinty’s long term affordable housing strategy.  After years of advocating for a provincial housing plan that will address the affordable housing crisis in substantial way, ACORN members, tenants, and low-income residents across Ontario expected much from the Province.

As the Toronto Star pointed out in their editorial response to the release of the housing plan, it "...[the housing plan] is little more than a series of regulatory changes” in the place of a comprehensive plan to address housing affordability.

Today, ACORN Canada along with the Wellesley Institute are releasing our own report on a key policy that was left out of the housing plan: Inclusionary Housing.

Inclusionary housing policies are powerful tools that Ontario municipalities can use to build new affordable housing.   They work by changing zoning practices to mandate affordable units in all new residential development, thus creating a permanent stock of affordable housing located in every new housing development, and thereby spread across the community.

Toronto Star: Anti-Poverty activists take wait and see approach to dealing with Mayor Ford

Oct 30th, 2010 by Laurie Monsebraaten in the Toronto Star

Downtown Toronto may still be reeling from last week’s municipal election, but in the city’s suburbs where Rob Ford swept every ward, anti-poverty activists and social service agencies are cautiously optimistic.

“We’re hopeful,” said East York mother Elise Aymer, of ACORN, a 20,000-member group of low- and moderate-income residents in the city which champions tenants’ rights, living wages and tighter rules for the payday loan industry.

“I think Rob Ford’s message of fiscal accountability resonated with many Torontonians of low- and moderate-income,” she said.

Aymer lives next to the ethnically diverse and economically challenged Crescent Town area, one of the city’s 13 priority neighbourhoods targeted for social investment under outgoing Mayor David Miller.

“I hope (Ford) will keep in mind the needs of low- and moderate-income people and the things ACORN fights for,” she said.

Unlike the 1995 provincial election when Conservative leader Mike Harris demonized the poor as “welfare cheats,” there was very little poor-bashing in Ford’s campaign, said social policy expert John Stapleton.

“Ford has a very strong populist bent and the man has spent a lot of time in public housing talking to people who are down on their luck,” he said.

“It’s just so unclear how it will shake out at city hall with him in the mayor’s office.”

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