For Immediate Release: Notice of Press Conference
Wednesday, January 15, 2020, 10am
CUPE 5167 Hall (818 King St E)
Press Conference: Tenants Demand Metrolinx Rehouse Evicted Tenants In Vacant Apartments & Preserve Purchased Properties for Affordable Housing
Lost in the conversation about the cancellation of Hamilton’s Light Rail Transit (LRT), is the plight of 80+ tenant households which were pushed out of their homes by Metrolinx, now for no reason at all. 60 buildings were purchased by Metrolinx before LRT cancellation, planned for demolition in order to accommodate road widening and LRT stations. King Street Tenants United has counted 102 rental units in these buildings and estimates that 87 of these units are currently vacant. (The full results of this survey are now available here.) With an apartment vacancy rate of 3.1% in Hamilton (source), 300+ homeless (source), 16,000+ on the affordable housing waiting list (source), and tens of thousands of Hamilton renters struggling as rents jumped 24% in the last year (source), it is unconscionable that apartments sit empty on King Street.
In reports to City Council and interviews with journalists, Metrolinx and City of Hamilton staff have downplayed the number of tenants affected and boasted about their “unique, ‘Made in Hamilton’” tenant eviction program they claim “has resulted in a high number of positive interactions with tenants” (source). In reality, many tenants have been treated terribly. It has been documented that tenants displaced from 832 King St E, a large, mid-rise apartment building and one of the first buildings bought by Metrolinx, received as little as $200 towards moving expenses or nothing at all (source). Since King Street Tenants United began holding tenant meetings over a year ago, the standard lease termination package from Metrolinx increased to include a twelve-month rent supplement (the difference between current and future rent). For many tenants, this supplement will soon expire and, facing a rent increase of hundreds of dollars monthly, it will only be a matter of time before many tenants are economically evicted.
King Street Tenants United will present the following demands of Metrolinx and the City of Hamilton at this press conference:
- Metrolinx provide all properties purchased for LRT to the City of Hamilton to be preserved as affordable housing.
- Buildings be promptly rehabilitated and tenants evicted by Metrolinx be given the first opportunity to move into these units, back into their homes and neighbourhoods.
- Tenants who currently have Metrolinx as their landlord be given written assurance that they will be able to continue to live in these units without facing rent increases or pressure to leave, either by Metrolinx or a new landlord.
- Tenants have reported that landlords of buildings who had been told that Metrolinx would purchase are neglecting maintenance. City of Hamilton Property Standards Department should immediately inspect all units on the Metrolinx purchase list, with the tenants’ permission, and enforce repairs.
Potential Legal Action Against Metrolinx
King Street Tenants United is also reviewing the potential for a class action lawsuit against Metrolinx. Our message to the 80+ tenant households evicted by Metrolinx, and anyone who remains on King Street with Metrolinx as their landlord: Contact us to join the fight for compensation and the right to return to vacant units. Tenants can email KingStreetTenantsUnited@riseup.net or call 289-659-0281.
Quote from Affected Tenant
“All I’m hearing is people being like ‘Yay, it’s not being built!’ or people being like ‘Oh no, this is horrible! it’s not being built!’ but no one is talking about all of the people that have been uprooted [for the LRT]….People were moving into places that were a lot more money than the place they lived in. [Metrolinx provided me] compensation for a year, and that year is coming to an end. I imagine that most people, once those [rent] subsidies run out, are now thinking ‘Well, what am I going to do now?’. I’ve now been living in this new place for about a year and don’t want to leave again. But if I can’t afford to stay here, it’s going to come out of something else. Like I’m either going to have to work more, or spend less money on food and other necessities, or get a roommate, or something. It’s just not a sustainable thing. And it’s not like affordable housing is readily available. You’re kind of stuck…I go by my building all the time now and I see it all boarded up. It just seems crazy to me that there’s a perfectly good building with five units in it that just sits empty while there’s lots of people in this city that are having a hard time affording housing or finding housing.”
– Vanja, tenant evicted and displaced from her home on King Street by Metrolinx
About King Street Tenants United
King Street Tenants United is a volunteer grassroots group of tenants and their supporters. It includes tenants who have been displaced from their homes on King Street to other parts of the city by Metrolinx; tenants who remain living on King Street with Metrolinx as their landlord; tenants whose buildings were planned for purchase by Metrolinx; and other tenants from the neighbourhoods near the planned LRT route who fear displacement pressure from LRT-driven gentrification.