Laxton Tenants Fight for Homes

Late at night Friday May 14th, just over a week ago, the tenants of 9 Laxton – a rooming house in Parkdale – were forced out of their homes by a fire.

The Red Cross, contracted by the city to provide shelter, food, and provisions for tenants of rooming houses after emergencies, found them a hotel for the night. That same weekend, however, the city told the men they’d have to check out by Monday at noon, with no offer of further support. After many phone calls and emails, they agreed to move them to another hotel and to extend their stay, provided the tenants look for new homes. 

But the tenants already have homes. Some of them have lived there for over 20 years. The place isn’t perfect, but it’s theirs, and they intend to return to it, barring an order from the city saying it’s not safe (so far no such order has been provided). 

The tenants have been meeting regularly on the church grounds near their temporary shelter, planning. 9 Laxton has a bit of a rep, and a couple of the tenants even warned us that they weren’t sure organizing would work there. It’s been impressive to see the level of cooperation, commitment, and communication these guys have. They’ve stepped up for each other in ways I’m not sure any of them expected. 

Today they had a meeting with their landlord with the demand that they be given clear communication and documentation about when they can move back in — and if they can’t, evidence of why not. The landlord has agreed, and will draft them a letter for Monday stating that they should be able to move back in within two weeks. The city, however, is so far insisting that the guys have to leave the hotel by Thursday the 27th. The letters the city sent the tenants say an extension MAY be possible, but only if the tenants can prove that they are looking for new homes. Why?

Many of these men are living with disabilities, all are living on very low incomes. They pay between 500 and 800 dollars a month in rent — which for many of them leaves little for food and other necessities. One tenant went to view an apartment yesterday — the only listing he could find that was anywhere near his price range. It was way outside the neighbourhood, maybe 150sf, with a toilet, a sink, and a hotplate. The rent? $1000 plus utilities. He thought he might be able to swing it, if he cut way back on food… but even then, it would be a stretch. Why, in the midst of an ever deepening housing crisis, where it’s all but guaranteed they won’t be able to find anything else anywhere near so cheap, and with their homes only weeks away from being ready for re-habitation, would the city insist that they “move on”, as one worker put it? Not only would they be losing their homes, they’d be losing their neighbours and neighbourhood. We are tired of seeing our neighbours pushed onto the streets or out of our neighbourhood, out of our city. This is unacceptable.

Tuesday the tenants will be presenting the city with the documentation showing they can soon move back into their homes, and will be demanding that the temporary shelter be extended until such time. How will the city respond? Stay tuned for updates and, if necessary, actions.

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