East Side Motel residents' future unclear as city expropriation nears
Family hopes city will help them find a new place
It's hard to believe Suzanne Eddy's apartment exists in Toronto.
"It's bad," she admits, pointing out just a few of the many issues plaguing the space where she lives with her partner and two children, aged 18 and 21.
There are holes in the ceiling and the windows. The toilet isn't mounted to the bathroom floor and the kitchen tap doesn't turn off. Rodents can be heard scurrying in the walls.
Once, Eddy says, a large, angry raccoon crashed through the bathroom ceiling terrifying her family and their pets.
Eddy has been living at the East Side Motel, at 3300 Kingston Road in Scarborough, for five years. For most of that time Eddy says she was paying $320 per week in rent, plus additional charges if they were even a day late.
But they've now stopped paying to protest the poor conditions. A community legal worker who is helping Eddy says the landlord sought Eddy's eviction, but it was dismissed by the landlord tenant board because the proper paperwork wasn't filed.
Eddy says she's not sure how her family manages to live in the squalid conditions.
"We don't have a choice, we have to do it," she says, but she knows they won't be there for much longer because the city's taking over.
City council voted to expropriate the crumbling motel at the beginning of 2018. Officials say negotiations with the owner are ongoing, but even if the talks are unsuccessful the city will forge ahead with plans to take over the property by the end of April and demolish it soon after.
Eddy is hoping that once the city takes ownership, it will help her and the remaining tenants find another place to live.
"Isn't that their responsibility? If they're buying it, right?" she said.
"I mean, we're not asking them to pay… we're just asking them to help us get our foot in the door somewhere. Somewhere better than here."
Coun. Gary Crawford represents the area and has been dealing with community complaints about the East Side Motel for years.
"The state of the building is in such disrepair, there are certain parts of it that have been condemned," he told CBC Toronto.
Crawford says he hasn't been inside, but knows the living standards are "substandard."
He says the city has committed to help relocate residents like Eddy, however it's unclear how that will work at this point. Crawford says he'll meet with the residents himself and that city staff have assured him they're doing their best.
"I do feel for them," he said.
Petrea McConvey, of Scarborough Community Legal Services, says she believes its unlikely Eddy and the remaining residents will get any money once a final deal goes through.
CBC Toronto contacted the lawyer who represents the motel's owner, but didn't hear back on Friday afternoon.
Toronto's 'housing crisis' means family has few options
McConvey's real concern is that the city doesn't have the supports needed to rehouse Eddy's family. She's worried staff will just provide a list of housing agencies and leave it at that, when the family needs "hands on" help with getting into a place.
"It's a real housing crisis out there in terms of what's available and the cost," she said.
McConvey notes Eddy can afford to pay rent, but prospective landlords are now asking for better credit ratings.
Eddy says at various points in recent years she's saved up first and last month's rent, but four or five different buildings have turned her down. She's worried if the city can't turn up a lead, the family will be split up and sent to various shelters.
"This is way better than a shelter, at least we're all together here," she said, sitting on the couch in front of a covered-up window.
Eddy says her family has never lived apart and her children, unlike her and her partner, have never used a shelter.
"We don't want them to go through that," she said.
It's still unclear when the East Side Motel will be coming down, but Eddy says she won't miss it.
"I'll be glad for it to be gone — I really will."