Tenants in four east Hamilton buildings planning rent strike

Residents in four east Hamilton high-rises are planning a rent strike next month to protest against a proposed rate hike organizers say could force some tenants onto the street.

Strike organizers say landlord wants to raise rent by almost 10% over two years

Tenants at four East Hamilton apartment buildings are planning a rent strike starting on May 1 to protest a proposed cost increase of almost 10 per cent over two years. (Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network)

Residents in four east Hamilton high-rises are planning a rent strike next month to protest a proposed rate hike organizers say could force some tenants onto the street.

CLV Group, which manages the Stony Creek Towers, between Centennial Parkway and Lake Avenue North, wants to raise rent by almost 10 per cent over the next two years, according to strike organizers.

That means residents, many of whom are immigrants, elderly or live on a fixed income, may see their monthly cost of living go up by $70-$80, said Emily Power with the Hamilton Tenant Solidarity Network.

"They would have to move elsewhere in Hamilton and in some cases might become homeless, because for those who have been living in these buildings for five, 10, 15 years … it will be extremely difficult for them to find another apartment in Hamilton for the same price," she explained. 

The tenants are refusing to pay their rent until CLV Group drops its AGI application and agrees to make some repairs. The strike is the latest action in the tenants' dispute with the landlord over proposed rent increases and the condition of some units,

It's a horrific reality, but some people will end up living on their streets or very far from their families.- Kevin Laforest, legal representative for the tenants

Power was not able to give an exact number for the residents taking part in the strike, saying only that "many" tenants from the 600-plus unit complex will be participating.

She added having to leave the neighbourhood means people living at 50 Violet Drive, 77 Delawana Drive, 11 Grandville Avenue, and 40 Grandville Avenue, will lose their security and sense of community, along with losing their home.

Tenants say basic repairs going undone

Residents have already gone to the Land Lord and Tenant Board, hoping to make a deal with CLV, according to Power, but have decided a strike is the only way to "get justice." 

CLV Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CBC News.

But in an email to the Hamilton Spectator, Roseanne MacDonald-Holtman said the buildings were in disrepair when CLV bought them.

"Given the previous state of disrepair, the property required a very substantial amount of maintenance, repair and capital investment which to date remains ongoing," she told the Spectator in December.

Stoney Creek Towers is a four-building complex in Riverdale. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

George Direkz has been living at the building at 77 Delawana Drive for nine years. He said the proposed increase adds insult to injury because the landlords are asking tenants to cover the cost of aesthetic changes, while basic repairs go undone.

"They're putting our rents up and they're not supplying the proper amenities," said the 80-year-old. "All they did is put new grass outside. They've hardly done anything, except for new rugs, which were needed. New grass, huh, we need that like we need a hole in the head."

The long list of tenant complaints also includes drafty windows, pest infestations, cracked tiles, mould, cabinets that are falling apart and long waits for basic repairs to appliances and plumbing, explained Power.

Direkz said he currently pays $732 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.

A similar, one-bedroom apartment in the building at 40 Grandeville Avenue is currently being advertised by CLV Group for $1,346 and boasting "updated kitchens and bathrooms with energy-efficient appliances, private balconies, and beautiful flooring."

A one-bedroom apartment in the building at 40 Grandeville Avenue is being advertised at $1,340 — the two-bedroom version will cost you $1,460. (Kijiji)

Direkz lives on a pension so any increase in rent will put him "between a rock and a hard place." That's why he decided to stop paying rent starting May 1.​

AGI loophole blamed for big hike

CLV has applied for what's called an Above Guideline Increase (AGI), which allows landlords to raise rent far above the provincial guideline. This year, that guideline is 1.8 per cent.

AGIs allow landlords cover the cost of capital investments such as new paint or balconies, by increasing rent for tenants, according to Kevin Laforest, legal representative for the residents.

He added AGIs are a tactic being used across Hamilton and the GTA to push out older tenants in favour of new ones willing to pay hundreds more.

"Those people are definitely in trouble and what adds to that trouble is that, if they are displaced they can't find anything else," he said. "For a lot of people the choice ends up being, and it's a horrific reality, but some people will end up living on their streets or very far from their families."