As the deadline to move out closes in on a crew of tenants at a Rexdale townhouse complex, they’re still “sticking to (their) guns.”
“We’re not moving,” said Patricia Edwards, who lives at one of 20 units at 25 Leduc Dr. and 2 Torbolton Dr.
In early November 2020, the day after a new owner acquired the buildings, tenants received a letter notifying them that they’d have to move out by March 31, 2021. This was followed by N13 notices, which allow a landlord to end a tenancy for necessary renovations among other reasons.
The Star did not hear back from the landlord for requests for comment.
The initial letter offered residents $5,000 for their trouble, a little over a thousand more than was required.
But many of the tenants have been paying at most $1,200 for two-bedroom townhouses. The renovated units are being listed for new tenants at $2,400. The old tenants have the right to return with no rent increase.
Even with rents dropping in the city, for many, new units to stay in during the interim are still unaffordable. So, while some have already left, residents in 10 units are planning to stay.
Tenants say while the past landlord did not keep up with repairs and it’s true they have been dealing with leaking roofs, unswept hallways and do-it-yourself repairs for years.
But still, they worry about the variables that could keep them from returning if they move out for the repairs.
If they get locked into new yearlong leases elsewhere, and their units are ready within months to move back into, will they forfeit their spot?
On top of that, new expenses were already being added since the new owner took over.
Parking and water were once included in rent, and now parking will cost $50 and new water meters were installed in the units.
With the help of ACORN, an anti-poverty community union which Edwards is a member of, they received a tenant support grant from the city of Toronto to help cover legal support.
It usually offers up to $10,000 to help cover legal costs for above-guideline rent increases, but this time, it was approved for a “renoviction.”
While they prepare to bunker down past the end of the month, here are what four of tenants had to say:
Karin Newman, 70
Moved in: 43 years ago, August 1978
Rent: $900 for a two-bedroom townhouse
“I’ve raised my two kids here. I’ve raised my grandkids here. And thought I’d be here until I have to go to a senior place,” said Newman, who now lives at 2 Torbolton Dr. with her husband. They’re both retired. “It’s a lot of memories,” she said.
Getting the letter was a shock, Newman added. “This is just not happening to us. How can this be? We always paid our rent on time. We’ve never had any issues with the landlord.”
Newman said she is on a limited income, with only a government pension, so she can’t afford market rent.
She mentioned other ways the landlord could have gone about this: given them the option to move out and stay with relatives while work was done, or allowed tenants to move into a vacant unit while work was done on their places.
“Living here all these years and putting up with what I have, I don’t need that new kitchen,” she said. “If you want to just come in and fix those things that need to be fixed. I’m good with that.”
Moving would mean figuring out a way to clear out a house filled with antiques collected over the years. Which at their ages and with limited help due to COVID-19, can be a challenge.
“We’ve got (an) accumulation of 42 years worth of stuff,” Newman said. “I’m a collector, I love antiques — furniture and glassware. My husband is a collector of coins and postcards.”
“I’m fighting it all the way. I paid my rent for March,” which should have been the last month’s rent, she said. She added that the cheque was cashed, according to her bank. “Hopefully, we have the opportunity to stay.”
Patricia Edwards, 52
Moved in: 2015, subletted, then took over the lease.
Rent: $1,190 for a two-bedroom townhouse
Edwards grew up in Toronto before moving to Quebec at age 18. She’s been back in Ontario since 2010, and currently shares her townhouse with her home with one of her daughters, 24. They both used to work in the service industry — her daughter at a restaurant and Edwards at a catering company — but they’re both using EI to get by now.
Over the years, Edwards said she has shared the townhouse with two to four people at a time — her brother or friends of her daughters. “All you need to do is cover the $400 or $500 rent and we’re cool,” she said. “You can’t get a room in Toronto for $400.”
Her housing costs right now are about a third of their combined income. Anything more would be too much.
“Right now we’re exactly at affordable. In order for me to move now, I’d lose space and have to pay more money.”
“We shouldn’t have to have three jobs, just to cover the bill and maybe have something left over to eat,” she said.
“Destroying more affordable housing to gain a profit,” Edwards said. “We’re sticking to our guns, we’re not moving.”
Todd White, 52
Moved in: Nine years ago, June 2012
Rent: Just under $1,200 for a two-bedroom townhouse
“I kind of find that very inhumane,” Todd White said. “Just to come in and disrupt people’s lives like that. No notice, no nothing.”
White is single and has no dependants, so he says he’s in a bit of an easier position than his neighbours who decided to leave.
“We have some very super beautiful people who were so stressed out and they just left. They left everything behind. They just couldn’t deal with it,” he said.
“The fact that it’s happening in the time of COVID … I can’t believe that he would even attempt this.”
His sister, who also lived in the complex, is a single mom. She followed the request and moved to Barrie, where she now pays $2,400 compared to $1,105, White said.
“My sister signed the papers; she’s already moved out, but said she wants to come back.”
Tenants who are served with N13 forms have the right of first refusal — they get first dibs on the unit once renovation is complete, and the rent cannot be raised above what they were previously paying.
“She was just living in fear,” White said.
Lisa Doucette, 34
Moved in: Nine years ago, about 2012
Rent: $1,045 for a two-bedroom townhouse
When she first got the letter in November, Lisa Doucette said she was in shock.
“I was really emotional — I’m still emotional thinking about it. This is our community. We’re a tight knit neighbourhood here.”
Doucette lives in a 25 Leduc Dr. townhome with her husband and son. Her husband is working full time while she is a social work student at York University and works part time.
She looked around at her options and didn’t see much she could afford. “We’ll be going from a townhouse to an apartment building for like $2,000.” Buying was another thought, but again, out of their price range.
Over the years, Doucette said she and her husband have handled their own repairs, since the old landlord wasn’t attentive. They painted and replaced the stained carpet, since they had a crawling toddler when they moved in. They’ve made it home.
Doucette anticipates a move being tough on their son, who was two years old when they moved in: “I can see it’s impacting him. His mood, his mental health,” Doucette said. “It’s the only place he ever remembers. He really doesn’t want to go.”
Angelyn Francis is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering equity and inequality. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: email@example.com
Angelyn Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star