Parkdale tenants declare victory, end strike saying they've 'won' deal with landlord

A Parkdale rent strike that began in May has come to an end with the property owner backpedalling on rent increases and vowing to pay closer attention to pest problems and disrepair. The landlord also offered a surprise relief fund to help low-income residents, tenants say.

Cuts to rent increases, revamped maintanence and extra rent relief for some part of deal, tenants say

People hold up protest signs.
A Parkdale rent strike that began in May has come to an end with after tenants say the property owner backpedalled on rent increases and vowed to pay closer attention to pest problems and disrepair. (Martin Trainor)

Residents in Parkdale are celebrating the end of a more than three-month-long rent strike and the beginning of what they say is more power for tenants.

Approximately 300 people in 12 buildings participated in the strike, withholding rent from property management company Metcap Living Inc. after it proposed rent increases above the rate of inflation at five properties. Strikers also took aim at what they say was a general state of disrepair in the buildings with mice and cockroaches a not-uncommon sight.

"The rent strike is over and we won," said Barb Livesay, a tenant at 135 Tyndall Avenue for the last three years, who was among those withholding rent from the company since May 1 after she says her rent was set to rise. "We fought back... We've done very well."

In a press release Saturday, the Parkdale Organize Rent Strikers' Negotiating Committee announced it had "won" the following concessions from the landlord: smaller rent increases, following up with maintenance repair work in buildings and additional rent relief for some tenants struggling financially. 

That last concession is something Livesay says tenants didn't ask for specifically, but instead something Metcap brought to the table during the bargaining process. 

"The organizing of hundreds of working class people in Parkdale, including us and our neighbours, has shifted the balance of power between landlords and tenants in Parkdale in our favour," the tenant group said, calling the development a "victory."

Barb Livesay, a tenant at 135 Tyndall for the last three years, was among those participating the rent strike. (CBC)

MetCap Living did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday, but its CEO Brent Merrill had previously told CBC Toronto that residents could call any day of the week to request repairs or report complaints. Units were being checked for pests proactively, Merrill said earlier this year. 

The company had also dismissed claims that rent increases were a way of pricing out current tenants.

Tensions between MetCap and the strikers boiled over at the end of May when video captured a protestor nearly run down by a truck with Merrill reportedly behind the wheel. The CEO said he apologized to the protestor, Kevin Laforest, following what he called the "unfortunate" incident.

"We were looking at the gentrification of Parkdale, where we were going to be forced out of our homes by the rent increases or the poor living conditions," said Livesay, reacting to the concessions. "We feel that we've won a good fight."

Angie Follert, a Metcap tenant since 2013, said the strike brought the neighbourhood together. "I feel fabulous. It's a great day."