Anti-renoviction rally in London, Ont. turns ugly, supporters told to leave

Click to play video: 'Tenant and alleged landlord rep scuffle at anti-renoviction demonstration'
Tenant and alleged landlord rep scuffle at anti-renoviction demonstration
VIDEO: Tenant and alleged landlord rep scuffle at anti-renoviction demonstration – May 13, 2023

Shouts of “Stand your ground!” could be heard in London, Ont., Friday as apartment tenants facing eviction for renovation purposes and their supporters were told to leave the premises by a man claiming to represent the property owners.

“You guys need to pack your stuff up and get out. You need to leave the property,” a man in a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, sunglasses and a backward baseball cap told a crowd of roughly 40 at around noon on May 12 in a northeast London neighbourhood.

As the man in the Leafs jersey began walking away, he bumped into a resident and then shoved him, prompting an argument.

Ward 3 councillor Peter Cuddy stepped in to de-escalate the situation and six police cruisers soon arrived on the scene.

Speaking to reporters after the altercation, Cuddy said he’s hoping a compromise can be found where the landlords can make some money but the tenants can stay put.

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“They don’t have anywhere else to go. Are we to commit them to the streets after this?”

A man in a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey claimed to be associated with the property management group. Marshall Healey/Global News

The residents of 20 units at 1270 and 1280 Webster St. in the Huron Heights neighbourhood received letters on April 28 stating the tenants’ leases will be terminated as of the end of August.

The letters claimed it was necessary to facilitate extensive renovations that would leave units uninhabitable for seven to 10 months and offered $5,000 for those willing to leave by the end of May.

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Canada’s Rapid Housing Initiative falling behind

Jordan Smith with London ACORN, a tenants’ advocacy group, previously told Global News it is “terrifyingly common” for landlords to use renovations as an excuse to evict tenants in order to put the unit on the market at a higher rent.

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Tyler Jollymore and his mother live in one of the units at 1280 Webster St. He was among the tenants who received a letter at the end of April. He told Global News if they lose their unit, they’ll be homeless.

“I’m on ODSP. My mom’s on OW. We are barely even able to pay for the rent here, so moving somewhere else, it’s going to be impossible.”

He said their current rent is just over $1,000 per month.

Tyler Jollymore stands in front of 1280 Webster St. on May 12, 2023. Marshall Healey/Global News

Jollymore also took issue with the suggestion that their unit needs extensive work.

“We know our apartment is not in a state of disrepair. There are some repairs that need to be made, but none that can’t be completed without us being there.”

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Multiple cruisers responded to a protest at 1270 and 1280 Webster St., on May 12, 2023. Marshall Healey/Global News

Julie Gallagher is not in one of the 20 units that received a letter, but the 72-year-old who’s lived in the building for about 20 years thinks it’s only a matter of time.

After 18 years in her unit, Joyce Ellis told Global News she will be staying put. She has not yet received a letter, but she said it won’t make a difference if she does.

“I know I’m going to get it, but I’m not moving. I am not moving my butt from here at all,” she said.

“I’m on my own. I have no family here, and I live on pension so I can’t afford to move. I can’t afford to store my furniture and you can’t find a place here. And this sort of thing is going on all over the place.”

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Following speeches, Smith and a group of supporters delivered a letter demanding a meeting with the property owners or management to reach an agreement avoiding evictions.

The letter was placed on the desk in an office in one of the buildings and police then told the group that if they did not live in the building they would have to leave.

Outside, a man claiming to be associated with the property management group who identified himself as “Pete” handed a trespass notice to Smith and ACORN, prompting people to begin to disperse.

Jordan Smith was issued a notice of trespass on May 12, 2023. Marshall Healey/Global News

London-Fanshawe NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong was at Friday’s event and spoke to those in attendance.

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“Long before these housing issues came to London, we’ve been talking about renovictions,” she later told reporters as people began dispersing.

“Now it’s coming to London, and we have to get these laws changed. London is in a housing crisis. You know, the demand is bigger than the supply. And we cannot continue to displace people who are on low income into situations where they can’t afford to live or (face) homelessness.”

The NDP has introduced two pieces of legislation it believes would address the issue, Bill 38 and Bill 58. Neither bill has yet to progress to second reading in the legislature.

MPP Teresa Armstrong spoke at the event on May 12, 2023. Marshall Healey/Global News

In an emailed statement to Global News on May 4, a spokesperson for Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark noted that “every tenant facing eviction has the right to a hearing” at the Landlord and Tenant Board.

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“If a landlord gives a tenant notice to end the tenancy, the tenant does not have to move out unless and until an eviction order is issued by an adjudicator,” wrote Victoria Podbielski.

“Additionally, if a tenant is asked to vacate a unit for the purpose of renovations, they have the right of first refusal to return to their unit if requested in writing to their landlord.”

Podbielski added that it is a provincial offense to deny someone the right of first refusal and pointed to the government’s Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants plan. Global News reached out to Clark’s office again on Tuesday but is still awaiting an interview.

Global News has also repeatedly attempted to contact the property owners over the last week, with little success. On Thursday, someone picked up when Global News called the contact number listed in the letter given to tenants and was told someone would call back. When no call was received, Global News called again and left a voicemail.

At the demonstration on Friday, Global News spoke with a man who identified himself as “Pete” and claimed to represent the property owners but who directed questions to the phone number Global had already called.

Webster Apts Inc. was incorporated Sept. 30, 2022, with a head office registered in Toronto.

– with files from Global News’ Marshall Healey


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