Tenants from the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood gave Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne a rough ride Tuesday night during a town hall consultation at the Thorncliffe Park Public School.
The residents raised multiple complaints about their landlords and accused the provincial and municipal governments of not trying to bring the landlords under control. About 150 people attended the meeting. Some residents complained about having rats and cockroaches in their apartments due to the old cabinets. Others said their landlords are not willing to renovate the apartments. Still more complained about outdated elevators, overcrowding and large rent increases.
Sadaqat Mohmand has been a resident of the Thorncliffe neighborhood for the last five years. He is currently residing at 47 Thorncliffe Park Drive. He said the small roaches come out of the aged cabinets. He has twice asked the building management, Rideau Towers, in written form, to get rid of the roaches but failed to get a reply back, he added.
“In the last year or so I have used four different infestation sprays on my own to get rid of it,” Mohmand said.
The president of the Thorncliffe Park Tenants Association (TPTA) Abbas Kolia said one of the major issues is the increases in rent when landlords don’t provide maintenance in the buildings. An average annual raise is about $40 for a two-bedroom apartment in the neighbourhood, Kolia said. He raised his voice and glared at the premier while he spoke, accusing her of addressing the issues very late.
“I have been asking the premier for the last eight months to have a meeting with the neighbourhood,” Kolia said, angrily.
Wynne, who attended the tenants meeting with an escort of security staff, denied that she has been ignoring her own riding. Wynne represents Don Valley West in the Ontario legislature, since being elected there in 2003. She told the crowd that she was aware of the overcrowding problem in the neighbourhood hi-rises.
“We have a situation where there are three or four times as many people living in the community as the buildings were meant to hold,” Wynne said.
The premier said she has knocked on every single door in this riding many times as an MPP and she knows there are families who are bringing other family members. There are good reasons for that because they are either moving in to the city or in a transition while trying to start a new life here, she added.
Wynne said the issue around the elevators is the age of the elevators, the parts availability and the labour. She said the labour is the biggest problem and she has raised the issue with the provincial minister of advanced education.
“We need to partner with labour unions to figure out if there’s a way so we can work to increase the labour availability,” Wynne said.
A resident of the building at 65 Thorncliffe Park said one of the elevators in the building has been down for about three years now. John Burnside, the city councillor for Ward 26 (Don Valley West) said one of the problems is that the provincial side of things is all about the safety, while the city works on the maintenance, he said.
“If you are trapped in an elevator, or two out of four elevators are not working, that is a safety issue,” Burnside said, but “it’s really been treated as maintenance issue.”
The councillor said the city and the province are talking in regards to the labour issues around the elevators. He said the length of time it takes to fix an elevator is totally unacceptable.
Some landlords did attend the meeting, but didn’t speak. Instead they had a representative address the crowd on their behalf. When Darrel Chang, the spokesman for the landlord’s association, came to the microphone, the tenants started chanting and one woman even shouted at him. The audience demanded that the landlords speak for themselves. It didn’t happen. Instead, Chang told them his members work closely with the politicians, the tenant’s association and the residents to try to sort out these issues. He said when it comes to refurbishing elevators, it takes about two-and-a-half or three years to get a new bank of four elevators working, not to mention the capital cost.
“Most of the buildings are planning to replace them and not just renew them but it is going to take time,” Chang said.
Wynne acknowledged that trying to get the landlords to self-regulate is a real challenge.
According to a new report released in November 2016, on Child and Family Poverty in Toronto, the poverty rate in the Thorncliffe area is 52 per cent. This is the second highest rate in the city, after Regent Park, which stands at 58 per cent.