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Jun 4, 20

Toronto Tenants: We’re in this Together

At look at how people across Ontario are fighting back against rent and landlords in an age of COVID-19

Since March, tenants have been facing hard choices. While being ordered to stay home, people across Ontario have lost wages. Many have lost their jobs entirely. Although CERB was supposed to solve this economic crisis, Toronto tenants know the math doesn’t add up. As bills pile up and work remains impossible for many, people are being targeted by landlords. We’re told that we’re alone and irresponsible. We’re told we can pay up or get out. We’re told that what little money we have isn’t for survival – but for our landlord.

Since COVID-19 began, an estimated 1.1 million workers in Ontario have lost their jobs. The province’s unemployment rate rose to its highest level in 30 years. Many of us who remain employed are on the front lines: at grocery stores and pharmacies, cleaning, making deliveries, providing personal support and in crowded warehouses or call centres. Single parents doing shift work have faced the choice of quitting and applying for CERB to educate their kids, or continuing to work and putting themselves and their family at risk while their kids fall behind in school.

Every year, being a tenant in Toronto becomes more financially difficult. In April of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the average Toronto rent for a lease signed on a one-bedroom apartment was $2213. The increasing profits of a handful of corporate landlords leads directly to increasing financial hardship for Toronto’s 750,000 tenant households.

While tenants face unprecedented financial pressures, our landlords are acting like nothing has changed. They expect rent to be paid in full and when they don’t get it, they escalate by issuing eviction notices, harassing tenants over the phone and through text messages, even going door-to-door with ATM machines demanding rent.

Even if you believe you can pay rent, many of our neighbours just don’t have the money. On June 1, tenants across Toronto collectively withheld their rent demanding that the temporary eviction moratorium be turned into a permanent eviction ban. Tenants have waited for over 2 months for their landlords to be reasonable. We’re done waiting.

Organizing Stories from Across the City

Tenants are not just hundreds of thousands of random people across the city. We are neighbours. We live together and we face similar struggles. We need to organize together and confront those struggles together. People across the GTA are doing just that.

Tenants are organizing in every corner of the city. Many are organizing for the first time, under difficult circumstances and with a lot at stake. We should learn from each other and recognize that not only do we have support in our buildings and our neighbourhoods but across the city as well. This page includes statements collected from just a handful of organizers in the GTA.

Across Toronto right now, there are hundreds of these stories.

Find out more about the people and neighbourhoods behind the organizing.

Defending our homes, together.

Whether it’s a building, neighbourhood or city, the same rule applies: we are stronger together than alone. Across the GTA, thousands of working class tenants are organizing together to improve people’s lives. Organizing has prevented landlords from issuing eviction notices and stopped landlord’s threats and harassment. We’ve made a good start but our struggle isn’t over yet.

Landlords may not be able to evict us now but they will try when the eviction moratorium ends. No tenant should lose their home because of COVID. Not now, not ever. Throughout the first week of June tenants across the city will be carrying out actions to make demands directly to our landlords. We will only accept a clear commitment that no one will face eviction for being unable to pay rent during this crisis.

On June 9, tenants across the city will meet at Queen’s Park to show landlords and the government that evictions for rent unpaid during COVID will not be accepted. Social distancing will be strictly followed. Masks will be mandatory. COVID-19 has hit our neighbourhoods hardest and we won’t increase that threat. Tell your neighbours. Organize a carpool from your building.

Our organizing can’t end on June 9. It must grow and spread. If the eviction suspension ends, we will be prepared to act. If the Landlord and Tenant Board re-opens, it will be up to us to defend each other. If they try to evict any one of us, we will need to stop it.

We can protect our health and safety against the threat of eviction. But only if we stay together. We have the strength and intelligence of thousands of working class people in our buildings and neighbourhoods.

Organizing means building relationships and making commitments to each other. This is what we can rely on in hard times. Join with your neighbours. You’ll have our support and we may need yours.

There may be organized neighbours in your area that you can join. Or you may have to start that organizing yourself. Either way we can help.  

We are in this together. 

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