Category Archives: canada

Double Crossing Tenants in Ontario

Pearl River     Helping with the ACORN Canada board zoom call was inspirational as always, but an eyeopener as well.

The good news included a win in the British Columbia after an extensive ACORN “internet for all” campaign with the telecommunications company Telus who finally agreed to extend the $10 per month basic internet access plan to all disabled users and many others.  Shaw is the next tele-giant in our sites.  They should throw in the towel now.  In Toronto, the report on the collapse of Google’s Sidewalk Labs fiasco, seems to have set the table for all of ACORN’s demands for senior and transitional housing to be built in the footprint, although it might take a year to navigate the bureaucracy to get there.

The bad news was pretty horrific, and, not surprisingly, it centered around the continued horror of Premier Ford’s Ontario government.  Early in the pandemic, Ford was clear, he had tenants’ backs.  He flatly stated that if the choice was food versus rent, eat, and he would make sure that tenants continued to be protected.   That was then, but what followed, to the horror of ACORN Canada’s leaders, was Bill 184.

When ACORN Canada’s president, Marva Burnett, said she was losing sleep worrying about Bill 184, I found myself shutting off the zoom camera so that I could Google Bill 184 and understand the problem.  The bill has one of those slippery names that sounds good, but too often portend evil:  Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing.  How bad could this be?  Turns out, it was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and quickly was becoming known as the “landlord eviction” bill instead.

Currently, tenants appealing an eviction and landlords seeking one have to go to the Ontario Landlord Tenant Board (LTB).  Sure, there’s a backlog, but that’s the government’s job to fix, not blow up by tilting the scales towards the landlords.  Bill 184 seems to do just that.  According to a report in The Leveller, “Bill 184 would allow landlords to bypass the LTB and offer tenants a rent repayment plan which, if the tenant refuses, or accepts and falls behind payments, would give grounds to evict. Tenants could then appeal to the LTB, which is fraught with problems and complexities that tenants without legal assistance are simply unable to navigate.”

The Ford team claims this is win-win for everyone, but tenants are clear with pandemic evictions relief ending soon that Bill 184 is greenlighting landlords for mass evictions.  It’s also a classic case of not fixing what is broken, since landlords already had the whip hand under the LTB according to an analysis of the data.  As The Leveller reports, “Despite delays, landlords use the board effectively to evict tenants and apply for above-guideline-increases (AGI) to rent. In recent years, LTB data demonstrates that landlord applications for evictions and AGIs have increased, compared to applications filed by tenants.”

ACORN Canada’s Tenant Union and many others will be standing in the way, but thousands of tenants are facing evictions and Ontario is greasing the way for landlords to put them on the street.  Marva Burnett will not be the only one losing sleep in coming months.


Trump Team Greenlights Predatory Payday Lending

New Orleans      We can count the days until we pray that’s it is over, but until then the drumbeat of woe is bound to continue.  The gutted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proved that it really might need a name change as it announced the shelving of Obama-era reforms to payday lending which will exploit lower income consumers rather than protect them.

The Obama rule wasn’t perfect, but it was progress.  Nothing had been done about the usurious interest rates for example, but it had taken positive steps.

There were limits proposed on the number of loans borrowers could take sequentially.  Such limits are critical in blocking the predatory nature of payday lending.  They require loans to be on a common database so that desperate low-income borrowers are not robbing Peter to pay Paul for example.  A study ACORN commissioned by academics in Canada where regulating payday lending has been a major campaign of ours for the last seventeen years found that borrowers were caught in a debt trap cycle for eighteen months or more to resolve the first loan as interests, fees, and penalties pyramided throughout the period.

The second key advance of the Obama rules required an affordability test before the loans were made.  Whether payday lending, subprime lending, basic mortgages or whatever the product, the baseline for any loan to be fair to the consumer has to include an assessment of affordability.

The Trump team eviscerated both of these reforms to greenlight the industry in its continued efforts to exploit low-and-moderate income families.  All this despite CFPB whistleblowers that had documented a stacked house research effort that had been fabricated to a predetermined aim of gutting the Obama regulations.

The industry reportedly collects $30 billion in fees from this predation, making it easy for them to drop $12 million in campaign contributions to Republican lawmakers to grease the wheels.  The Community Financial Services Association of America, their trade association, is doing the happy dance because its rip-offs of lower income borrowers will be able to continue unabated.

Their only claim is that they supply last ditch credit at exorbitant prices to desperate families.  Everyone not on the take from the industry, knows that there are many better ways to provide credit that don’t trap families in permanent poverty.