Project shines light on growing number of tenants forced from their homes

A social advocacy group in Oxford County is looking for tenants who've been displaced from their homes, an occurrence its members say is increasingly common as the housing crisis drags on.

Social Planning Council Oxford members are looking to interview residents 18 and older willing to share their stories about being forced out of their homes due to harassment, discrimination, rising rent rates or "renovictions," a term used for evictions justified by claims of renovations or repairs.

"We have heard from working with our colleagues and chatting with people in the community that have experienced this, so we're trying to understand it better, but also draw attention to it because some people don't really understand the current market and what's happening with rentals," said Stephanie Ellens-Clarke, the council's executive director.

The interviews are part of a project called the Many Faces of Rural and Urban Displacement, which is also being carried out in three other Ontario communities.

"This project is to try to map displacement in Ontario," said Kama Vandevyvere, local engagement co-ordinator for Social Planning Council Oxford.

"We're trying to see the reasons that people are leaving their homes. The first part of the project is to interview people," she said, adding participants can remain anonymous. "And we're going to use that information to inform advocacy efforts."

The second part of the study, once interviews are complete, is to compile information and create resources to assist tenants facing eviction.

Organizers say the goal of the project is to identify trends in smaller rural communities and create recommendations that can inform policy change at the municipal and provincial levels to better address the housing crisis.

"We envision using the stories in some of our advocacy and communication campaigns that we have as part of the Oxford Housing Action Collaborative, but also the social planning council. It's helping to shift mindsets, so people can better understand the issues," Ellens-Clarke said.

The project, undertaken in Oxford, York Region, Kingston and Cornwall, is funded by the Community Housing Transformation Centre through the Community Based Tenant Initiative Fund.

Stories gathered in the next month will be shared with the Canadian Human Rights Commission that is studying tenant displacement countrywide, Ellens-Clark said.

"They're part of the national housing strategy. They're trying to better understand and then make specific policy changes at the federal level as well."

The interviews are expected to take 35 to 45 minutes and will be conducted by phone, online or in person until the end of March. Participants will receive a $50 grocery gift card for their time.

Anyone interested in sharing their story is asked to contact or 226-228-0539. For more information about the project or Social Planning Council Oxford, contact or call the same number above.

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press