Renters in cities around the world are under pressure from the market. There is big money in real estate. Capital investment in cities drives up rents and working class renters feel the squeeze. But working class renters across Ontario take note: by organizing your neighbours and taking direct action you can make your landlord back down.
In August 2017, a rent strike by 300 tenants in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood ended in victory. The rent strikers took on one the biggest landlords in the GTA along with their multi-billion dollar investors and came out on top.
The Parkdale rent strikers secured the following concessions from MetCap Living:
- Substantial reductions in the above guideline rent increases (AGIs)
- A program of rent relief for tenants in financial hardship
- A program of enhanced maintenance in the buildings
Constant above guideline rent increases mean working class renters get priced out of their homes. To fight back, tenants formed committees in their buildings and linked up across the neighbourhood. There were hundreds of conversations at neighbours’ doors and in their units. There were dozens of meetings in building lobbies and at the local library. Thousands of newsletters were delivered door to door. Organizers discussed their plans and carried them out together. No one else was going to do it for them.
Don’t play by their rules
Rent strikers understood that the political and legal systems are dead ends. Instead of lobbying the government or appealing to the Landlord and Tenant Board, they took on their landlord directly. The rent strikers withheld over $1 million in rent from the landlord, visited the home of a MetCap investor in upscale Forest Hill, and shut down a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board to stop a rent increase.
We won’t be priced out
There is no rent control on vacant units in Ontario (what is known as vacancy decontrol). This creates a financial incentive for landlords to push out long term tenants so they can raise rents on vacant units. Landlords accomplish this by raising rents above the guideline and neglecting in-unit repair and maintenance.
Renters everywhere can begin to organize. Talk with your neighbours about the common struggles you all face. Print up flyers and hold a meeting. Set up a committee in your building or on your block that is open to all your neighbours. Decide on how you will stay in contact with each other. Educate yourselves about your rights. Do research on your landlord. Set your demands and launch a campaign. Organize and build power in your neighbourhood.
Without organization, renters lack the power to defend their homes and neighbourhoods. When we organize with our neighbours, we build the strength we need to improve our lives.