Housing Justice for Low-Income Residents in Jane-Finch
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WE DEMAND HOUSING JUSTICE IN JANE-FINCH AND FOR ALL LOW-INCOME RESIDENTS OF TORONTO.
The Jane-Finch Housing Coalition (JFHC) is a coalition of residents, service providers and community organizers working towards housing justice and housing equity in the Jane-Finch area in Toronto. JFHC’s focus is to bring awareness to ongoing and emerging housing issues, educate and empower community members to exercise their housing rights, as well as encourage engagement in urban/community planning processes and housing advocacy. We are writing to you today to express our concern about the escalating COVID-19 pandemic and how it is impacting our community.
The Jane-Finch community continues to be disproportionately impacted by housing issues in the city. As a community with the highest density of subsidized housing units in Canada, Jane-Finch is one of the lowest-income neighbourhoods in Toronto with most of its population being made up of struggling, working-class, racialized people. Jane Finch is also experiencing some of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the city. The members of this community face many barriers to survival - one of which is maintaining housing in a city where the cost of living continues to rise while the household income remains low. Through our community consultations over the last two years, we heard that housing affordability and the yearly rising cost of rent are the biggest housing concerns in Jane and Finch, particularly for seniors and youth who are financially vulnerable.
With a high concentration of vertical poverty, new research shows that Jane-Finch also has one of the highest eviction rates in Toronto. These rates run parallel with increasing property speculation, in conjunction with recent developments like the Finch West LRT. Between the years 2012-2016, just one apartment building complex in the Jane-Finch community was Ontario’s fourth highest postal code for eviction applications placed as per the Landlord and Tenant Board. Most of the evictions were due to non-payment of rent.
Residents have also become the target of renovictions in which landlords are investing in cosmetic repairs to increase the cost of rent, and using AGI's as a tool to evict tenants and make profit. Some residents reported being asked to pay an additional $300 for renovations or face being evicted. Meanwhile, landlords are ignoring the need for capital repairs and essential maintenance in these buildings. These unsafe and unsanitary living conditions are detrimental to the health of residents living in these buildings.
The COVID-19 pandemic will only exacerbate these housing challenges for an already disadvantaged community. Residents in Jane-Finch are affected by the loss of income and work are struggling to provide for their families. The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve each day and will continue to impact low-income families for many months after the pandemic has passed. All levels of government need to immediately act to ensure communities are supported and housed during this time of uncertainty and as we recover from this pandemic.
WE DEMAND THAT...
The Government of Canada:
1. Instate a federal moratorium on mortgage foreclosures. This moratorium will protect homeowners and tenants during this pandemic and after it has passed.
2. Provide emergency funds to municipalities to support housing resources, such as rent banks, for those who fall through the cracks of federal systems.
3. Apply the federal government’s ‘human-rights based approach’ to housing, in line with the National Housing Strategy, to respond to immediate housing needs during the crisis and any federal housing recovery plans proposed after the pandemic.
The Province of Ontario:
1. Reinstate the eviction moratorium, and ensure it is being diligently regulated - this includes developing an eviction prevention plan, enforcing a ban on eviction notices, ensuring landlord refrain from harassing renters for non-payment of rent, and delaying enforcement of already granted evictions.
2. Ensure the Landlord and Tenant Board deny future eviction applications for non-payment or persistent late payment of rent, in situations where the COVID-19 outbreak has affected a tenant’s ability to pay rent, either through loss of income, illness or caring for others who are ill, and/or caring for children during school and daycare closures.
3. Ensure the rent increase freeze for 2021 is properly enforced, and that landlords are not exploiting the AGI exception to displace tenants. Provide wide communications to notify renters of the rent increase freeze.
4. Apply rent control and vacancy control to all privately-owned buildings and rental units, regardless of the year they were built or turned into rental properties (this includes new purpose-built rental developments and units).
5. Freeze rent during the COVID-19 crisis for renters on ODSP and OW, living in subsidized housing, who have experienced loss of income due to COVID-19, illness or caring for others who are ill, and/or caring for children. These repayment plans should be reasonable residents should not be required to pay more than 30% of their income on monthly rent, including any changes to their income after the COVID-19 pandemic. This rent freeze could be implemented through immediate rent relief by providing rent subsidies for tenants. Having to spend a smaller portion of income on rent would enable low-income families to positively contribute to and rebuild our local economy after the crisis.
6. Protect workers in this time of uncertainty by ordering employers to provide paid emergency leave days and increasing the access to Employment Insurance. We stand with Fight for $15 and Fairness calling for immediate Health and Emergency Labour Protections.
7. Rescind Bill 184 which works in favour of landlords, not tenants.
8. Prohibit AGI's during the pandemic.
The City of Toronto:
1. Stop any evictions from Toronto Community Housing and wherever possible, delay City-ordered building closures on the basis of fire safety; where not possible, ensure residents are moved directly to alternative, permanent, self-contained housing, not into the shelter system.
2. Increase funding for the Rent Bank and Eviction Prevention programs to ensure vulnerable tenants are housed, provide grants rather than loans for applicants and ensure these programs are widely publicized.
3. Acquire self-contained housing units to rapidly re-house people out of the shelter system with the required financial and personal supports, with priority to older adults, those with preexisting conditions, and others at risk for the worst effects of the virus
4. Widely publicize updated and frequent communications and resources in both online and off-line forms to ensure all residents are informed regardless of digital access
5. Ensure the principles behind inclusionary zoning are grounded in supporting affordability for low-income renters and homeowners, and not to appease developers. The proposed IZ draft framework is exclusionary, and should be applied to all Protected Major Transit Station areas in low to moderate market areas where low-income residents live. We recommend implementing the highest set aside rates possible in both rental and affordable ownership developments. The IZ allocation and tenant access plan should also aim to offer affordable rental and ownership units to residents living in proximity to new developments.
6. Conduct meaningful consultation with rooming house tenants to ensure their needs are being met in the new multi-tenant home framework.
7. Support the health and safety of rooming house tenants, while ensuring they have security of tenure and are not at risk of displacement due to new legislation.
We urge you to consider these demands as a response to an ongoing housing crisis that existed before COVID-19, and will only continue to worsen after the COVID crisis.
Jane Finch Housing Coalition (JFHC)
Apr 23, 2020, Revised: Nov 18, 2020
CC: All community residents, organizations and grassroots groups in the community and allies across the City of Toronto and media
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