Home / Day: January 19, 2021
From the CBC:
A housing group that lobbies on behalf of low and middle-income renters has learned from a recent survey that one third of respondents are living in sub-standard conditions in London.
ACORN Canada, a national grassroots organization which opened a chapter in London, Ont. in October, has been surveying renters in the city.
Sarah Henke was one of the 72 people to respond. She lives with her husband in a two-bedroom unit in a five-building high rise apartment complex at 520 Mornington Ave., in east London.
“It’s a bit of a gong show,” she said of the complex that is operated by Sterling Karamar.
“Maintenance requests do not go answered. I’ve had a maintenance request for my tub that doesn’t drain since November 10th and a maintenance request in for my sink that doesn’t drain since November 18th,” Henke said.
CBC News has made multiple attempts to contact Sterling Karamar but has yet to receive a response.
Henke has lived in the unit for seven years and pays $1,000 a month, including hydro, which is below market value in London.
“My husband and I have actively considered leaving and have looked but we can’t afford anywhere else in the city.”
Henke said a comparable apartment today would cost $1,400 a month, plus parking and utilities, which is why she says she puts up with the living conditions.
“The building itself is infested with [cock]roaches. So regardless of what unit gets treated — because the whole building is so infested — it’s just a losing battle,” she said.
ACORN London leader, Nawton Chiles, who is also a philosophy student at Huron University College, hears stories like Henke’s too often.
He’s been taking stock of survey responses and sees patterns that he hopes the lobby group can address.
“The number one thing that people are complaining about is that the rent is too high. We’ve got almost 75 percent of tenants saying that,” said Chiles. “But the second most popular concern is that repairs and maintenance never get done and that the housing condition is poor to begin with.”
A third of respondents said their conditions were substandard.
Henke, and ACORN London believe one solution is for the city to license landlords.
“What we’re asking the city to do is to license all new and existing rental units in a publicly accessible database,” Chiles explains, emphasizing the importance of random, annual inspections.
Chiles said that would strengthen property standards, “so that a landlord could be fined for repeated infractions, have their license revoked, if they continue to provide substandard housing.”
“We need accountability. These landlords have gone unchecked for so long,” Henke said.
A national tenancy advocacy group has established a New Brunswick chapter.
ACORN New Brunswick will join previously established chapters in British Columbia, Toronto, and Nova Scotia.
Their first goal is to push Blaine Higgs’ PC government toward reinstating the eviction ban that was rolled back last spring.
“There are so many people facing economic pressures in their personal lives, and the government as of now hasn’t really done anything to accommodate that,” said Raven Blue, an organizer with the new chapter.
The newest ACORN chapter has released a petition calling on Higgs’ government to freeze evictions through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blue says the Higgs government doesn’t understand the issues many New Brunswickers are facing during the Public Health emergency.
“The government has not shown interest in protecting people during a pandemic when you have exceptional market pressures that are causing rent increases to spike,” he said. “People are being evicted, and so my sense is they are not really aware of the issues. They are more interested in enabling gentrification in our communities, rather than helping tenants or people at risk.”
Blue says he’s noticed changes in the rental market provincially and locally over the past five years, and he himself has been evicted under what he called questionable circumstances.
“It’s a widespread issue where housing market pressures are taking advantage of very low tenant protections in New Brunswick,” said Blue.
While many have called for rent control in the province, similar to what Nova Scotia’s government rolled out in late 2020, Blue says it isn’t a cure-all for the issues faced by tenants here.
In provinces like Quebec, Blue says tenants have 21 days to pay off late rent, and then receive a tribunal hearing. But in New Brunswick, tenants can be evicted after just seven days without paying rent with no recourse.
“In New Brunswick it’s among the worst in Canada, the triggers for eviction,” said Blue. “So if you can easily evict a tenant then rent controls don’t really matter a great deal. You can evict somebody and just name your price for the rent.”