Parc-Extension Housing Crisis
Evictions and harassment are occuring at increasingly alarming rates across the Parc-Extension neighbourhood, according to figures recently released by Comité D’Action de Parc-Extension (CAPE).
The local housing group, which works on advocacy issues for local tenants, recorded 71 residents who were being threatened with eviction since last August.
This included threats of repossession, evictions to enlarge or renovate dwellings or outright harassment to empty entire buildings, doubling since last year.
Thousands of people marched on Saturday in Parc-Extension to protest the steep increases in rent prices across the city as well as the eviction of many long-time residents.
“There is a housing crisis, its consequences are real,” read a statement by CAPE, adding that “we need rent control to fight against abusive rent hikes, to halt evictions and to counter the shortage of affordable housing.”
Rent increases and evictions
One of the people being threatened with eviction is Marie-Josée Hudon. The 59-year old French teacher has lived on the corner of Ball and Querbes Avenue for 8 years now.
She, along with the 6 other dwellings in her building, were served with an evacuation notice sent via a bailiff from new owners who took possession in January.
The letter stated that all tenants had to vacate for 6 months in order to conduct major renovations to the building. That also included two rent increases – $65 for the current year and another $300 the following.
“There are seven tenants including one woman who is 94, who lives on her own and only speaks Greek,” said Hudon, adding that the owners’ attorney was harassing tenants to accept the notice.
Humans as a business
Hudon feels the owners are not taking into consideration the human effects the evictions have. “You leave for 6 months and for compensation we were all offered the same amount of $1000,” she deplored.
Although she will accept the rent increase, she is wondering where she will live in the meantime. “Even if I were to sublet another apartment the rent would be double or even triple the amount,” said Hudon, adding that is in addition to the cost of storing her belongings.
“It’s very worrying, I lose sleep,” said Hudon, adding that she feels “it’s a technique to get people to leave so they can do what they want to increase the rent.”
For Hudon, an owner should be allowed to maintain the building and pay for their investment by charging rent but feels it should be prohibited to use tenants to turn a profit.
“I feel this is very dehumanizing, it really worries me,” concluded Hudon, adding that she was “disappointed that another human could act without thinking about the people inside.”
“It’s something that disappoints me about humanity,” she said.
But Hudon’s story is one that is becoming increasingly common across the area. A woman, who we have agreed to anonymize for her safety, spoke of intensely racist and violent harassment by the owners for her to leave her apartment.
She has lived in the same two and a half room apartment in Northern Parc-Extension for twenty years now. She was recently served with a rent increase of $10 per month, which she found out was higher than her neighbours and refused to pay it.
“I clean my house, I paint myself, he doesn’t paint for me,” she said, adding that she doesn’t understand the need for an increase in rent when nothing is done to maintain the building.
Since, she has been in and out of the Tribunal Administratif du Logement’s courtrooms, fighting what she considers the harassing practices the owner is taking to get her to leave.
“If you don’t move, I’m gonna send somebody to kill you,” she said her owner told her, of which she had a recording to prove it. She also added that she had been called a number of racist slurs during interactions with the owner.
She feels that issues like hers are not taken seriously in large part because of her race and origin. So far, the eviction proceedings have been in her favour at the TAL’s courts and have allowed her to remain in her apartment. She nonetheless felt trapped as this did not address the harassing behaviour by the owners.
Need for rent control
These are issues that are an increasing reality for many Parc-Extension residents. With a rising trend of renovictions, the practice of renovating apartments to kick out its current tenants, many are demanding that more be done to address the issue.
“We’re seeing a lot of landlords resorting to a number of different tactics, including renovations as a pretext to clear out entire buildings, as well as harassment, intimidation and threats,” said Amy Darwish, interim coordinator at the Comité D’action de Parc-Extension.
The group argues that more social housing must be built to accommodate low-income people, but also says that there are many legal solutions to protect those already renting.
“There needs to be far more regulation around the ways in which permits for renovations are issued,” said Darwish, adding that “all permits for renovation should be contingent on the non-eviction of tenants.”
CAPE also states that this problem could be addressed by initiating effective rent control in the province. “The burden is on tenants to refuse rent increases and in practice, very few do. We think that that burden should be reversed,” said Darwish.