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Advocacy group holds mock funerals mourning the 'death of affordable housing'

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Concerned citizens came together, donned their best funeral blacks, and mourned ‘the death of affordable housing’ on Thursday.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) organized the public day of action in six cities to protest rent increases, renovictions, and demovictions.

Mock funerals were held at buildings in Kitchener, Hamilton, London, Brampton, Toronto, and Ottawa.

The event in Kitchener began at 425 Lancaster Street West where ACORN claimed tenants are fighting against renovictions.

The demonstration then moved to 250 Frederick Street where tenants have formed an ACORN tenant union to resist mass renovictions.

“There’s no place left really in Kitchener that you can get for under $2,000 for a one or two bedroom apartment,” participant and renter Laura Mosher said.

According to a Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation report from January, rent for the average two-bedroom apartment in Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo sat at $1,658. The report said the vacancy rate for the area was 2.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, a report from Zumper, an online service listing homes, rooms, condos, and apartments for rent, listed Kitchener as the 8th most expensive city to rent in across the country last month. According to their report, rent for a one-bedroom apartment climbed to $1,889 while the cost of a two-bedroom apartment rose to $2,335.

“We need help. We need them to pass some kind of laws for this to stop happening because it’s happening all over the place,” renter Tracy Caplan said.

Tenancy termination troubles

ACORN recently released a report looking into trends surrounding N12 and N13 tenancy terminations.

An N12 notice is issued when a landlord or immediate members of their family or a family caregiver wants to move into a rental unit and live there for at least one year.

An N12 can also be issued if a person buying a rental unit intends to move an immediate family member or family caregiver into the space and the complex contains no more than three residential units and they have entered into an agreement to purchase the rental unit.

An N13 is issued when a landlord intends to demolish the rental unit, the landlord needs the unit to be vacated to do extensive repairs or renovations, or the landlord is converting the rental unit for a non-residential use.

According to the ACORN report, using data obtained through a Freedom of Information request, N12s and N13s are frequently being used by corporate landlords to evict long-term tenants.

The data shows 18,151 N12s were filed with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) between 2017 and 2021, representing an increase of 70 per cent over the years.

Meanwhile, 4,067 N13s were filed between 2017 and 2023, representing an increase of 300 per cent.

ACORN believes those numbers may be a ‘gross underestimate’ of the scale of renovictions because some renovictions never make it to the LTB due to voluntary tenancy terminations. Those terminations would includes ‘cash for keys’ and ‘buyout’ offers.

AGI Accusations

ACORN is also calling on the government to intervene and stop extraordinary rent increases.

In most cases, landlords in Ontario can only increase rent by an amount specified by the Ontario government.

However, landlords can apply for an increase above the guideline (AGI).

According to the report published by ACORN, 8,402 applications for AGI rent increases were filed at the LTB.

Tribunals Ontario says a landlord can apply for an AGI for three reasons:

• The landlord’s costs for municipal taxes and charges have increased by an “extraordinary amount”

• The landlord completed significant renovations, repairs, replacements or new additions to the building or to individual units. This type of work is called a ‘capital expenditure’

• The landlord’s costs for security services increased, or the landlord began providing security services for the first time.

The ACORN report does not clarify how many of the AGI applications were approved by the LTB.

ACORN demands

ACORN is calling on the province to introduce full rent control that would apply to all buildings and ban AGIs that circumvent existing rent control measures.

Currently, the province does have some rent control measures, but they do not apply to buildings built after November 15, 2018, community housing units, or long-term care homes.

ACORN is also asking the province to include new vacancy controls to stop exorbitant rent increases on vacant units. They believe such a measure would remove the financial incentive behind some renovictions.

The demands come as the City of Hamilton passed a bylaw last week focusing on bad-faith renovictions.

Under the bylaw, landlords issuing an N13 eviction notice must secure temporary living arrangements for the tenant or provide suitable compensation if the tenant is required to leave their unit during the renovations or repairs

The city reports a 983 per cent increase in the number of N13 notices issued to tenants between 2017 and 2022.

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