‘It actually means homelessness’: tenants fight against demovictions

Apr 6, 2023 | Canadian News, Headlines, News

When Meagan Kee heard a developer purchased her midtown Toronto apartment building, she knew a demolition notice may soon follow.

She was right.

“In December of 2022, we received an official notice from the landlord that our building was slated to be demolished and that an application had been submitted to the City of Toronto,” Kee said.

She, along with the other tenants of 55 Brownlow Ave. in the Eglinton Avenue and Yonge Street area, a rent controlled apartment in Toronto’s midtown neighbourhood, became the latest target of a demolition eviction, also known as demoviction.

Menkes Development submitted an application in 2022 to the city to demolish the building and replace it with three residential condo towers, providing a total of 1,162 units.

According to Ontario’s guidelines this means units in the new towers will be exempt from rent control, making them less affordable for many of the existing residents.

The application has yet to be approved by the city, but Kee said it is unlikely to be rejected.

Kee said for many of the residents living at 55 Brownlow Ave., the threat of eviction will not only result in displacement, but may also lead to homelessness.

“There are some people in this building who are already on ODSP, who are only able to live in this building because they moved in at a time when rent was reasonable,” she said.

A woman holds a banner

Maegan Kee holds a banner outside of 145 St George St. during a rally against demovictions. Photo credit: Tyreike Reid

The tenants association at 55 Brownlow Ave. organized a rally on April 1 to fight against the demovictions taking place across the city.

The rally was organized in partnership with tenants associations at 25 St. Mary St. and 145 St. George St., both rent controlled apartments that also received demoviction notices.

Tenants gathered outside of 25 St. Mary St. before marching over to 145 St. George St.

Julia Kelemen, a senior who has been living at 25 St. Mary St. for 40 years, said the threat of eviction and displacement is particularly hard on the elderly.

“If you’re young, you can still kind of have enough energy to move somewhere else,” Kelemen said. “And you know, you can live together and all that.

“But we’re seniors, it’s much harder for us,” she said.

Kelemen said many of the seniors in her building rely solely on their pensions to live, which can make it increasingly difficult to find another apartment building that is considered affordable.

Ontario MPP Jessica Bell (NDP-University-Rosedale) joined the tenants in protest, and said the Ford government is not doing enough to protect tenants.

“Doug Ford has picked a side and it’s not the side of renters,” Bell said. “It’s the side of corporate landlords that want to make a whole lot of money, and they’re making this city very expensive right now.”

A sign

Protestors hold up signs during a rally on April 1 at 25 St. Mary St. to stop demovictions. Photo credit: Tyreike Reid

The Ontario government said in a news release on April 5 that it will be increasing protections for tenants and renters.

The government said it will be proposing protections for renters who are threatened with evictions due to renovations, demolitions, and conversions.

This includes requiring qualified persons to provide reports stating units must be vacant for renovations before tenants are required to leave, the government said.

But for tenants like Kee, the worry of having to find a new home lingers on.

“Everything in your life falls apart if you don’t have a home,” she said. “So we need to make sure that people are housed, and that people aren’t being pushed out of the city because they can’t afford it.”