Posted November 20, 2018
Tenants of a St. James Town high-rise displaced by a fire rallied outside the offices of Bleeman Holdings and Medallion Properties on Monday afternoon in protest of building management’s move to evict them from their temporary hotel accommodations.
Last week, property management for 650 Parliament Street notified residents by letter that as of Nov. 30, their temporary accommodations at hotels would no longer be paid for.
The move sparked outrage from tenants and Toronto Mayor John Tory, who said the two-week notice is “not acceptable.”
The Toronto Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) ramped up the fight against the evictions on Monday, calling on Tory to appoint a city staff member to manage the situation.
“The landlord has an obligation to house displaced tenants. The current situation will end up with hundreds of people on the street, many of whom are low-income, families with young children, and seniors,” a news release from ACORN reads.
“Tenants are bringing their demands to the offices of the landlord, and renewing their call on the City of Toronto and John Tory to appoint a staff to manage this emergency.”
Nearly 1,500 tenants were forced from their apartments in August after a fire broke out in the building and caused significant damage to the electrical system.
The date pegged for their return has been pushed multiple times as the scope of the damage and necessary repairs expanded.
Currently, they’re slated to return in early 2019.
Tenants who were unable to find their own accommodations were placed in temporary housing by property management. Some of the options offered included hotel rooms and rent subsidies.
Mark Slapinski, a resident and member of ACORN, said the group has drawn up a letter of demands to present to management at the office of Bleeman Holdings and Medallion Properties.
“The list of demands includes continued accommodation for all residents, continuing hotel accommodations and provinging support until restoration is completed,” he told CP24.
“A lot of these people they’ve been bouncing around and after this, they’re going to be homeless. They have nowhere else to go. A lot of these people, they don’t have friends and family they can stay with, so it’s definitely been a very scary situation for everybody.”
Slapinski said some residents were told that they won’t be able to return until May or June of 2019.
Carrying large red ACORN flags and signs, the group marched from Dufferin Street and Lawrence Avenue toward the Bleeman Holdings and Medallion Properties offices where members were met and denied access by building security.
A Medallion Properties representative soon met the protesters outside, where he was presented with the paper.
The representative, Danny Roth, told the protesters that the company does not get involved in the “day-to-day management” of 650 Parliament Street and in fact are “minority” owners.
“I’m happy to take the issues that you’ve raised, I’m happy to take the letter from ACORN and the concerns of tenants to the property management. I’m happy to make sure that your concerns are heard,” Roth told the protesters.
“I dare say that property management of 650 Parliament is very aware of the conditions and challenges being faced by tenants of 650 Parliament. I’m very confident in saying that. I’m also confident in saying that the challenges faced by management right now is nothing compared to the challenges faced by tenants. We’re all very aware of that and trying to work through it.”
One protester rejected Roth’s distancing of Bleeman Holdings and Medallion Properties from the situation, saying that the company should consider themselves “guilty by association.”
“This has been going on for some time and they will not speak with us so you can understand why we’re trying to broaden our spectrum of trying to get attention from somebody – basically anybody,” the tenant advocate said.
“I see how you might feel this is unfair but it’s kind of like guilty by association. Even if you’re a minor holding share in this ownership, it’s still like you’re confounding the behvaiour. I think you maybe need to turn to your higher ups and say, ‘You’re making the rest of us look bad, could you do your jobs, please?’”
Roth told the group that he would promise to approach management of the property to get “as much certainty as can be provided.”
“The worst thing we can do would be to give you information that comes across as inaccurate or seen as misinformation or an untruth,” he said. “My commitment to you is to engage in communication with representatives of the group of tenants to provide you accurate information as I know it and to do my best to make sure that what we do tell you, we stick to. That’s our obligation, that’s my promise.”
Earlier Monday, at an unrelated news conference, Tory reiterated his disapproval of how property management has handled the situation.
He said he has met in person with property officials to stress that the responsibility of looking after the displaced tenant rests on them.
“They have nothing to do with the fire or how long it’s taken for them to do repairs,” he said. “I was told after I began inquiring about this on Friday, after I learned of the letter, that the repairs are going on 24/7 and that they’re moving as quickly as possible, but I’m looking for a very complete update on this… I understand it’s expensive but so is the repair of the building.”
Tory said that he believes property management has run into some sort of roadblock with the insurance company over the issue, despite there being “relatively few” tenants left relying on hotel rooms.
“I began on Friday to reach out to both the insurance company, to say to them this is a matter that is of great interest to the mayor, and the administration of the city, because these are our citizens who need to be properly looked after,” he told reporters.
“Insurance paperwork should not, at any time, stand in the way of looking after these people in a humane fashion.”
Article by Rachael D'Amore for CTV News Toronto