Leaders in vulnerable neighbourhoods will be taught about legal rights
A new program by the Social Planning and Research Council hopes to better support new Canadians at risk of displacement in quickly gentrifying Hamilton.
As the tentacles of gentrification spread across the city, and housing prices and rent costs continue to rise, some tenants across the city are being left vulnerable — and many don’t know their rights.
“There are things that aren’t bad about renewal,” Cassandra Roach says. “But when your urban renewal, your revitalization of a street or neighbourhood, comes at the cost of pushing out the people who were there … how can you justify it?”
Roach is spearheading the [Dis]placement Project, a Social Planning and Research Council initiative that is being funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario to support new Canadians with landlord-tenant issues.
The program will provide community-based legal education to social service providers and community leaders in the Beasley and Riverdale neighbourhoods, to better inform them on issues such as tenant rights and bylaws — information that they will then be able to take back and share with residents.
The need for such a program became apparent after the displacement of residents in the Beasley neighbourhood over the last few years, Roach explains.
Tenants in buildings at 181 John St. N. and 192 Hughson St. N., for example — both managed by Greenwin Inc. — have been forced to move out as a result of renovations, repairs and rent increases.
“Renoviction,” Roach calls it; an attempt to clear out tenants in order to jack up the rent.
And they’re now seeing similar tactics being used in the Riverdale neighbourhood across the city.
Neelan Aslam has lived in Riverdale for eight years. One of the highlights of her neighbourhood, she says, is the number of community-based supports available to newcomers. But in recent years, as property values go up, she has seen new landlords take over highrise buildings and increase the rent. She knows of cases where landlords offer ‘buyouts’ to tenants to move out, so they can charge new tenants higher rates.
The biggest problem, she says, is that tenants — particularly those new to the country, and those who do not speak English — don’t know their rights.
“They don’t want to be targeted, so they are just reluctant to say anything so that they don’t get kicked out of their apartment,” she says. “It’s really, really important that they be educated on the laws.” Ghanwa Afach agrees.
“An established Canadian family in a similar circumstance would be able to connect with available resources easily and [would not] allow management to harass them,” she says. “But newcomers don’t have knowledge of institutions and the housing system; they also don’t have knowledge of their own rights and responsibilities under the law.”
Both Afach and Aslam are identified community leaders who will be receiving the training through the [Dis]placement project.
The legal training will be provided by the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, Core Collaborative Learning and the SPRC. There will be three five-week training workshops; one for Beasley community leaders, one for Riverdale leaders.
People in lower-valued rental units may be forced out.