Residents who'd refused to leave a row of Sandy Hill rooming houses after being given eviction notices last year have struck a deal with their landlord that lets them stay in the neighbourhood.
Affordable housing advocates working for the Osgoode Street tenants feared they faced "renovictions," a term for the practice of using renovations as an opportunity to bring in new tenants and charge significantly higher rents.
Most of the rowhouse tenants left last summer when Smart Living Properties acquired the properties and issued notices to end their tenancies, but a handful remained. Their case went before the Landlord and Tenant Board last week.
According to Ryan Deacon, a lawyer representing three of the tenants, the two camps agreed that those who remained would be allowed to move into one of the buildings that will be repaired first.
"I am quite pleased with it," said William Weaver, who's lived on Osgoode Street since 1978. "Everything I need is nearby."
The deal also allows tenants to pay the same rent as they were for their previous units.
"I'm flexible with moving in there," said Linda Brown, another tenant.
"I mean, it's actually easier for me to do that. You know, there's no stress. I don't have to panic about finding another place to live."
The residents had what's known as the right of first refusal — meaning they could choose to continue their tenancies at the same rent once the renovation work was finished — but they feared that option wouldn't be honoured.
The city had also ordered Smart Living Properties to obtain vacancies in order to make necessary repairs, since the buildings had been deemed uninhabitable.
Between the renovations the landlord sought and the repairs ordered by the city, advocates for the tenants worried a lack of nearby affordable housing would leave them with few other options.
'Works for everyone,' says landlord
While two tenants have not come to an agreement with Smart Living yet, Deacon said he believes the settlement was the best option and leaves the majority of tenants in a better position.
Smart Living, meanwhile, said it's pleased that the renovation work can now resume.
It maintains the property had fallen into serious disrepair and was considered almost unlivable when it was acquired in June 2020.
"The company is happy that this compromise works for everyone," a spokesperson wrote in an email.