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Transitional tenants' rights debated after Yellowknife women evicted

There's debate over whether transitional housing facilities in Yellowknife should be subject to the N.W.T.'s Residential Tenancies Act, which regulates relations between landlords and tenants, after two women were asked to leave Lynn's Place.

Views differ on whether transitional housing facilities should be subject to Residential Tenancies Act

Susie Komak says she was evicted from Lynn's Place without warning as a result of a dispute with a security guard. She packed up her belongings in a black grocery bag and returned to the Centre for Northern Families, where she's been living on and off for the past several years. (CBC)

A debate has sparked over whether transitional housing facilities in Yellowknife should be subject to the N.W.T.'s Residential Tenancies Act, which regulates relations between landlords and tenants.

The YWCA runs Lynn's Place, which provides temporary, safe housing for women who need a fresh start, while the Salvation Army runs Bailey House, which provides transitional housing for men. The transitional programs include support staff on site, cooking classes, and security, among other supports.

All tenants pay a monthly rent, which can be supplemented by income support of up to $900 per person, per month.

Susie Komak says she recently got into a dispute with a security guard at Lynn's Place. Last week, she was asked to leave. Komak says she was not given a warning.

She packed up her belongings in a black grocery bag and returned to the Centre for Northern Families, where she's been living on and off for the past several years.

"Why fight something... something bigger than I am?" Komak asks. "It's hard to do that on your own."

Komak is one of two women who have been told to leave Lynn's Place since it opened four months ago.

Arlene Hache is advocating for the two tenants asked to leave Lynn's Place, saying they 'would not have the avenue other renters would have' to appeal an eviction. (CBC)
Arlene Hache is advocating for the women who have been evicted. She says that because the Residential Tenancies Act doesn't apply to transitional housing, the tenants can't appeal the eviction.

"She [Komak] would not have the avenue other renters would have," says Hache, "which is to go to the rental office and have their case heard, about whether or not it was fair and right that they should be ejected from their apartment that they pay for."

Act meant to protect tenants, landlords

The N.W.T. Residential Tenancies Act protects the rights of rental tenants and landlords in the territory. One key protection under the act is the establishment of a territorial Rental Officer, who can be assigned to settle disputes between tenants and landlords, such as evictions. The act is administered through the territory's Ministry of Justice.

In his most recent annual report, the N.W.T.'s Rental Officer, Hal Logsdon, wrote that "personally, he feels that providers and tenants of transitional housing would benefit from the provisions of the Act."

'It's not like we're making these decisions willy nilly'

However, Lydia Fuller, executive director of the YWCA, says if that even if the Residential Tenancies Act did apply to transitional housing, those two tenants would still have been evicted.

"One is around nonpayment of rent, and one is around causing issues for other tenants," she says. "So if someone goes into the apartment complex and they're doing drugs, you can't have that. You can't.

Lyda Fuller, executive director of Yellowknife's YWCA, shows off one of the single bedroom units at Lynn's Place. Fuller says that putting transitional housing under the Residential Tenancy Act would open up the units to everyone. (Hilary Bird/CBC)
"It's not like we're making these decisions willy nilly. And it's not like it's a quick thing. We give people chances, we sit down, we ask them: 'How can we fix this? How can we work together?'"

Fuller's primary concern with including transitional housing like Lynn's Place under the Residential Tenancies Act is that tenancy would then be "open to everybody."

"So the answer isn't to squash transitional housing and say it's all market housing under residential tenancy," says Fuller. "The answer is to have legislation that allows you to fill in the gaps along the continuum." 

Hache believes that steps need to be taken to ensure that vulnerable tenants in transitional housing are properly supported in situations such as Komak's, saying the YWCA and Salvation Army should co-ordinate with other centres before asking a tenant to leave.

"What benefit is it to take someone and throw them on the street?" she asks.

"So if the YWCA and the Salvation Army can't figure out what the next best step should be, they shouldn't be in the position of running that transitional housing."

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