Tag Archives: affordable housing

ACORN Canada staff at YEYB in Quebec City!

Consolidating the Fight Against Housing Displacement in Canada

Quebec City    After a day of training and reports, the ACORN Canada organizing staff really got serious when the Year End / Year Begin meeting began no holds barred wrestling with campaigns.  The discussion was particularly intense around the dual crises of affordable housing, beyond the reach of many members, especially in the urban centers, and displacement of these same tenant families in these red-hot markets that have been well publicized in Toronto and Vancouver, but are equally problematic in Ottawa, Hamilton and other cities.

The platform for the discussion was the breakthrough victories in the western cities of Burnaby and New Westminster, abutting Vancouver.  As Vancouver has become increasingly unaffordable and the playground of the rich and foreign investors pushing prices past seven figures, pressure on prices and housing stock has led to speculation and displacement that we have termed “demovictions,” when tenants are evicted so that landlords and developers can demolish these three-story, ten apartment units to erect huge, towering apartment and condo towers.  In previous years’ meetings, the decade long campaign that had finally succeeded in winning landlord licensing and inspections with real penalties in Toronto had been the centerpiece topic.  ACORN groups in Ottawa and Hamilton had carried that campaign forward in those cities.  Now the debate centered on how to nationalize the victories in the west across Canada.

The victory in Burnaby had been long in coming as well, but was sweeping.  ACORN’s campaign and leaders had moved the city council to pass arguably the strongest tenant protections around displacement in North America.  When a qualifying building is scheduled for demolition and redevelopment under the new bylaw, the displaced tenants would be given a monthly rent top-off from the time they are moved out of their old unit, until they are moved back into the unit.  The rent supplement would be the area median rent plus 30%.  In 2019, that calculated to $1820 for a two-bedroom or $1545 for a one-bedroom, assuring the tenant of being able to successfully find alternative housing.  The real kicker is that once the redevelopment is completed, the tenant has the right to return to her old apartment at the same rent as when they left, coupling the scourge of displacement with what is effectively rent control.

This is great public policy.  The city doesn’t lose any affordable housing nor are tenants permanently displaced, even tough temporarily inconvenienced, the city gains more housing units, and despite all of their whining the developers make their money back and more from the new apartments they are adding.

Will it still lead to gentrification?  Yes, to some degree, since the new units, either rented or sold, will undoubtedly absorb the costs of the relocation and the retained affordable units.  Rents on those units will rise with inflation a couple of points per year, but low-and-moderate income families trying to move to Burnaby will be forced farther out to find affordable housing.  The only solution for that problem is the one that cities, provincial and national governments in Canada and around the world are still avoiding:  building more public housing.  The national housing policy envisions a rent subsidy for 300,000 families of up to $2500 per year, but that’s another story.

Nonetheless, ACORN Canada is clear.  This is what works.  Time to make the demands nationally, city to city, province to province.  These victories are benchmarks, so the stalling and excuses from city staffers and electeds won’t wash anymore.  There is a program that is winning, and a plan to make it work everywhere.

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New Housing Law in New York Having Huge Impact on Tenant Evictions

New Orleans       The Wall Street Journal and its reporters must get a special thrill when they can score an exclusive on the New York Times on New York’s own turf.  I bet they didn’t even care when they went out to celebrate last week at their local watering hole that their billionaire owner, Rupert Murdoch, and all the landlords who read their paper were probably seething as they went line by line reading about the huge benefits the new housing law in New York State was having for tenants.  Their tenants are not big readers of the Journal, but even though they may not have seen the article, they still celebrated.  The difference was that they stayed home, rather than going out, because the big news was that they were not being evicted.

One of the most profound results of the new law has been the almost 50% drop in evictions being filed in New York City’s housing court.   The new law instructed landlords to wait fourteen days rather than three days before evicting for nonpayment or late payment.  According to the Journal’s review of the statistics for the New York City boroughs, “New eviction cases against city tenants for nonpayment of rent are down by more than 35,000 since the law was signed on June 14, compared with the same period in 2018, a drop of 46%….”  The new law also gave tenants more time to respond, all of which has seems to have slowed down the eviction happy landlords who assumed they could threaten someone with housing court and be done with it, and then raise the rents to escape rent control restricts.  Holdover cases on minor lease infraction claims are also reportedly down by 11% as landlords try to figure out how to get the upper hand again under this new 74-page law that closed many of the loopholes they had enjoyed in the past.

Some of the impact is more New York City than universal.  There have been huge increases in legal protection for tenants in the housing court under Mayor DeBlasio.  Admittedly these changes were enacted before the new law, but it has to be a factor in slowing them down now while they figure the angles.  Additionally, there is a “look back” provision on previous repairs and rent increases that is peculiar to NYC rent control that wouldn’t exist in other cities, preventing us from comparing every orange city to the Big Apple.

Nonetheless, the point is impossible to miss.  Making the law fairer and giving tenants real rights and protections does in fact slow evictions and protect affordable housing.  Preventing landlords from playing gotcha on the least little things and perp walking them into courts keeps tenants in their units and lets them work things out with their landlords.

It’s pretty clear already that cities and states in the US and abroad as well need to study the new law and see what they can put in place locally.  For sure tenants and our organizations are now going over it with a fine-toothed comb.

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