Tenants of Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood have won important concessions from their landlord, MetCap Living Management, after a rent strike that began May 1.
Rental units in twelve Parkdale buildings were badly in need of repairs, and tenants were hit with repeated rent hikes intended to force out low-income residents. Many tenants had withheld their rent payments in response.
MetCap claimed that efforts were made to address tenant concerns at the buildings, including special hotlines to report repair issues. But tenants were not impressed, especially when MetCap applied in February to the Landlord and Tenant Board to raise rent 3 per cent above provincial guidelines, each year for three years, due to renovation costs.
Parkdale Community Services said as many as 200 tenants of the 12 buildings withheld rent in May and up to 300 in June, an estimate based on public meetings and information from tenant representatives. There were also rallies and marches through Parkdale, the short-term shutdown of a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board, and other tactics.
“We won this strike because we refused to play by the rules,” said Bryan Daley, who lives at a seven-story building at 90 Jameson Ave., in the news release. “Parkdale came together as a community and organized to defend our homes and we came out on top.”
The August 12 statement of the Rent Strikers’ Negotiating Committee reads:
“Today we are pleased to announce that the Parkdale rent strike has ended in victory. The organizing of hundreds working class people in Parkdale, including us and our neighbours, has shifted the balance of power between landlords and tenants in Parkdale in our favour.
“For the past six months we have organized our neighbourhood to take on our landlord directly. We know that the laws, courts, and bureaucracies of this system do not serve our interests and throughout this fight we would not be trapped in their dead ends. We refused to play by the rules. Instead we set up independent organizations in our buildings and linked those organizations up across Parkdale. Three hundred of us in 12 buildings went on rent strike and hundreds more of our neighbours joined our actions. What’s more, our organizing has built a new power in our neighbourhood, a power which is based in our own capacities as working class people.
“We have won the following concessions from our landlord:
– A substantial reduction in the above guideline rent increases at each building
– A program of additional rent relief for tenants in financial hardship
– A program of maintenance and repair work in each building
“Our rent strike won because it expressed the collective strength of working class people in Parkdale. Yet we feel we have only made a beginning. We will continue to organize in our buildings. We will reach out to neighbours facing rent increases in other buildings throughout the neighbourhood. We are prepared to take up the struggles of all working class people in our neighbourhood whether around housing, education, employment, or any other area of our lives. By continuing to organize, we will become stronger and build our power in Parkdale.
“We would like to thank everyone who supported us in this fight. Moreover we urge you to organize and build power in your own neighbourhoods. There is no limit on what we as working class people can accomplish when we organize together in our own interests.”