In light of the announcement on December 16, 2019 by Caroline Mulroney (Minister of Transportation) that Hamilton’s LRT project is cancelled, we update this page to include the following:
The cancellation of the Light Rail Transit project provides relief for many tenants. Those of us who remain living on King Street with Metrolinx as our landlord, and those whose homes were shortly to be purchased by Metrolinx, are happy that we need not fear eviction and building demolition any longer. Tenants who have already been pushed out of our homes and displaced to different parts of the city are hopeful that we will be able to return. Tenants who live in neighbourhoods near the LRT corridor, and were facing rent increases and displacement pressure due to LRT-driven gentrification, are also breathing a sigh of relief.
The need to organize remains. We need to fight to preserve all properties purchased by Metrolinx as affordable housing. Buildings should be promptly rehabilitated and tenants evicted by Metrolinx should be given the first opportunity to move into these units, back into their homes and neighbourhoods. Tenants who currently have Metrolinx as their landlord should 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. We know that many landlords were refusing to spend money on repairs, believing that Metrolinx would shortly purchase the buildings. We need to fight to get the City of Hamilton Property Standards Department to immediately inspect all units on the Metrolinx purchase list, with the tenants’ permission, and enforce repairs. We also know that many tenants displaced by Metrolinx are struggling to afford their new apartments. Some received little or no compensation. Some received a 12-month rent supplement, that will soon expire. We need to fight to extend the rent supplements until tenants can move back into their old units, at the same rent as before. King Street Tenants United will continue to organize to fight for these demands. Join us!Open publish panel
Membership & Geography
King Street Tenants United is a grassroots group of tenants and our supporters. We began organizing and holding tenant meetings in 2018. Our group 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 are planned for purchase by Metrolinx; and other tenants from neighbourhoods near the planned Light Rail Transit (LRT) route who fear displacement pressure from LRT-driven gentrification.
While King Street Tenants United works on behalf of all King Street tenants, we focus our efforts in the section of King Street between Wellington and Kenilworth and do outreach in the Landsdale, Gibson, Stipley, and Crown Point neighbourhoods in Ward 3. This area is home to many renters, traditionally one of the most affordable places in the city. It is also the area where the majority of Metrolinx property acquisitions are concentrated.
King Street Tenants United aims to strengthen relationships between neighbours. We emphasize working-class solidarity and reject divisions based on race, religion, gender, sexuality, ability, language, level of education, or level of poverty. We have each other’s backs and work to collectively respond to disrepairs, rent increases, landlord harassment, evictions, and any other forces of displacement. We stand against anyone whose vision for the neighbourhood does not include us.
Transit or Housing: We shouldn’t have to choose
It is Metrolinx and the City of Hamilton who put us in the position of having to choose between having access to improved public transit and hanging onto homes we can afford. Most of us ride the bus and we know its shortcomings. We know what it’s like to stand and watch multiple buses pass you by because they are full of passengers. We know what it’s like to be late for work, for school, for doctor’s appointments. We know what it’s like to struggle with a walker, a scooter, a stroller to get on the bus. We all want improved public transit that is affordable, faster, more accessible, carries more passengers, and pollutes less.
But Metrolinx and the City of Hamilton’s plan for LRT in Hamilton requires the purchase and demolition of 90+ buildings and the eviction of dozens of working-class people from our homes. Through related ‘transit oriented corridor’ upzoning and ‘community improvement area’ financial incentives for developers, their LRT plan will accelerate gentrification across the lower city in Hamilton’s poorest neighbourhoods. LRT will be responsible for the direct displacement of dozens of tenants along the LRT corridor and the secondary displacement of thousands more in neighbourhoods near the train. LRT-spurred gentrification poses a threat to many of our neighbours, who are facing steep rent increases, renovictions, demovictions, displacement via disrepairs and intentional landlord neglect, and the loss of rental apartments through the conversion of many duplexes and triplexes back to single-family homes for new homebuyers. Without the collective fightback of working-class people, we will see hundreds of our neighbours displaced, perhaps out of the city altogether, and the rapid transformation of our neighbourhood into an unaffordable wasteland of condos, art galleries, boutique eateries, nail bars, and yoga studios. As with the Skytrain in Vancouver, the ION LRT in Kitchener, and many others, the Hamilton LRT is a gentrification Trojan horse. Sure, it will bring high-quality public transit, but none of us will be able to afford to live anywhere near it in order to use it.
Plans for LRT date back more than fifteen years. Metrolinx and the City of Hamilton had more than enough time to prepare for this. They could have purchased land on the LRT corridor, built affordable housing, and moved would-be-displaced tenants into these units. They could have passed tenant assistance policies to protect other tenants in the neighbourhood facing displacement pressure via renovictions and demovictions. They could have done the right thing. Instead, they did nothing. It is clear they believed that, because we are poor, they could quietly, swiftly evict us from our homes without anyone noticing or caring. In their eyes, we are a minor inconvenience to be dealt with, to be disposed of, a small sacrifice in service of greater ‘city building’ goals.
Beyond #YesLRT and #NoLRT
There are many different people who want a piece of the neighbourhood and have a stake in the LRT. Landlords, developers, investors, business improvements associations, real estate agents, and homebuyers are looking to cash in as neighbourhoods near the LRT become trendy and property values increase. Politicians, city officials, and urban planners facilitate this process by championing the LRT, upzoning land, and handing out financial incentives to landlords and developers. Many progressive individuals and organizations (including non-profits, social agencies, artists, environmentalists, and unions) are also LRT boosters. As the LRT is being built without any meaningful provisions for displaced tenants nor adequate new affordable housing units, this public transit investment is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In reality, the LRT is more a real estate project than a transit project. The benefits (construction jobs; transit improvements; less pollution) are far outweighed by the costs (mass displacement of poor, renter households from our homes and communities; accelerated gentrification of the lower city; a spike in housing insecurity and homelessness city-wide). By supporting Metrolinx’s LRT plan, these groups betray their social justice missions and act against working-class people. We also see few allies in the #NoLRT crowd, which appears to be largely comprised of homeowners and car drivers rather than renters and transit users like us. Sitting pretty in their big suburban homes, they don’t want their taxes to be used to serve poor people downtown. They want to continue to use King Street as a six-lane highway to speed through our neighbourhood and refuse to give up a lane for public transit. We realize that cannot trust any of these groups to fight for our interests and that we must act ourselves.