Toronto tenants and advocates occupy rental office to prevent families from being evicted
Tenants and advocates occupyied the rental office at 215 Markham Rd. in Scarborough today to prevent CAPREIT, Toronto's largest landlord, from evicting working class immigrant families amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Markham and Eglinton Unite and 215 + 225 Tenants Union, CAPREIT Ontario Director Carmen Perez allegedly verbally promised renters "no one will be evicted" in these trying times, and then promptly signed off on at least five N4 eviction notices to tenants in 215 and 225 Markham Rd.
A COVID-19 announcement on the CAPREIT website also states that "No CAPREIT resident will be evicted for not making their monthly rental payment during this crisis."
The tenants @caprent is trying to evict are working class immigrants who are thousands behind on rent due to the impact of the #COVID19 crisis. Tweet @caprent and ask them why they want to make families homeless during a global pandemic and economic crisis? Tenants need answers!— Markham and Eglinton Unite! (@mneunite) October 1, 2020
"CAPREIT told us they will not evict anyone but then they sent out eviction notices just as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed officially," said one of the tenants facing eviction in a statement.
"CAPREIT tells us they care about our families but they will only meet to discuss repayment, not rent relief, even when so many of us are out of jobs and savings. Government assistance is not enough to pay sky-high rents and some of us do not even qualify for benefits like CERB and CRB. They say they care but for decades our buildings have been falling apart and have been infested with pests. Our community deserves a real answer and real relief."
Toronto’s biggest landlord, @caprent has been offering one month of free rent to new tenants but is unwilling to offer support to current tenants, many single mothers and essential workers. Ask @caprent why they want to evict people who have been hit hardest by #COVID19 ?— Markham and Eglinton Unite! (@mneunite) October 1, 2020
Tenants and advocates began the sit-in at 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning and said they would not leave the office until all eviction notices are withdrawn and tenants are instead offered rent relief.
Nearly two hours into the protest, CARPREIT called the police to try and get demonstrators to leave. When police arrived, tenants attempted to explain the situation.
"Tenants are explaining to police why we are here," Khalood Khan, one of the advocates supporting tenants during the protest, told blogTO. "We are not trying to cause a disturbance. We want to meet with Carmen Perez."
Police then told tenants to leave the office and wait for CARPREIT management in the parking lot.
Police is telling tenants they need to go stand in the parking lot to wait for @Caprent management. Why should tenants who pay thousands of dollars in rent leave their own building? pic.twitter.com/KIV2nShehz— Markham and Eglinton Unite! (@mneunite) October 1, 2020
Following today's events, a spokesperson for CARPREIT sent a statement to blogTO which referred to the protest as "disturbing," "unlawful"and "irresponsible action by outside agitators."
"The decision to occupy a management office, to intimidate employees, and to risk the health and safety of those involved during a global pandemic is at best, disappointing, and at worst, dangerous," reads the statement."
"In previous communications directly with residents at 215 and 225 Markham Road, we have repeatedly acknowledged a willingness to assist any resident struggling with financial challenges related to Covid-19," it continues.
"We have outlined details of our rent relief program, and detailed options for those struggling to pay rent by providing interest-free rent deferrals, interest-free repayment programs and the ability to apply LMRs (last month's rent) to help ease financial burdens. At these properties we have also pledged not to apply approved AGI's, and stressed our desire not to evict any tenant during the pandemic.These efforts may explain why it appeared that so few of today's participants were actually residents of this community."
Tenants and advocates have meanwhile long been calling on the city to issue a moratorium on residential evictions for the remainder of the pandemic, as the ban issued by the province expired this summer.
The city maintains that the ability to do so remains under provincial jurisdiction, but city council did approve a motion to call on the province to reinstate the moratorium on residential evictions yesterday.
Today I proposed that Council call on the Province to reinstate the the moratorium on residential evictions. The mention passed 22-1. Over to you @fordnation— GordPerks (@gordperks) September 30, 2020
In the meantime, tenants continue to organize all over the city and remain committed to banding together to prevent Toronto's most vulnerable from losing their homes amid an unprecedented global health crisis.
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