Parkdale tenants' campaign blames real estate agent for loss of rooming houses

Cheeky new campaign by a group of anonymous Parkdale tenants accuses real estate agents and investors of reducing affordable housing stock in the west-end neighbourhood.

Campaign accuses real estate agents, investors of reducing affordable housing stock

A cheeky new campaign by a group of anonymous Parkdale tenants accuses real estate agents like Nick Brewerton of reducing affordable housing stock in the west-end neighbourhood. (TheManWhoSoldParkdale.com)

You probably don't know his name, but if you live in Parkdale, you've likely seen his face plastered around the neighbourhood.

He's a real estate agent named Nick Brewerton, and he's been dubbed "The Man Who Sold Parkdale" by a campaign launched by an anonymous group of tenants.

"We are calling for an end to displacement realty — the practice of selling affordable homes at inflated prices which push new landlords into forcing out old tenants in order to increase rents," reads the campaign's website.

"We want Nick Brewerton to take his displacement realty business out of Parkdale and any other neighbourhood that faces similar shortages in affordable housing."

The tenant group — which declined to speak with CBC Toronto citing privacy concerns — is also calling on the city and province to bring rent control to vacant apartments, preventing landlords from charging whatever they want once a unit is empty and "removing the financial incentive to push poor people out of their homes."

While the group is pinning their concerns on one real estate agent through cheeky "Nick-Free Zone" door signs, saying Brewerton alone has helped sell more than 180 units of affordable housing and counting, experts say "displacement realty" is a widespread problem in typically lower-income neighbourhoods like Parkdale.

A group of Parkdale tenants has launched a new campaign highlighting their concerns about "displacement realty," where properties that house low-income people are sold for inflated prices in the hopes of renting out the units to higher-income earners. (Lauren Pelley/CBC News)

28 rooming houses sold over last decade, research shows

"Many of the older owners of rooming houses are selling their properties and the new owners that are purchasing these properties on speculative prices are aggressively up-scaling or de-tenanting buildings to rent to higher income tenants," says Joshua Barndt, executive director of the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust.

The group's research shows at least 28 rooming houses have been sold off over the last decade, leading to the loss of units for around 350 people.

City council is hoping to curb that, and recently voted to support an innovative pilot project that would create a pot of money to help a non-profit buy and renovate a Parkdale rooming house.

Championed by Coun. Gord Perks, the proposal aims to provide $1.5 million in funds available in Ward 14, along with other funding sources from other levels of government.

Joshua Barndt, executive director of the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust, is among those who calls the loss of rooming houses a "crisis." (Lauren Pelley/CBC News)

But right now, neighbourhood tenants say affordability issues are getting worse each year. 

Mark Wade, who first moved into south Parkdale seven years ago, said his 15-unit building has been sold twice in that time — both times by Brewerton, whose face Wade recognized on one of the new campaign's signs in the neighbourhood.

While Wade currently pays $580 per month for a rent-controlled bachelor pad, other units where tenants have left are now going for $1,100.

"Our unit, if it were to rent out, it would be over double what we're now paying," he says. 

Warning: the following satirical video produced by the campaign, which is not affiliated with Brewerton, includes one profane word.

Realtor says he's 'supporter of affordable housing'

So how does Brewerton feel about having his face and name used in a campaign about housing affordability?

In an email statement, the realtor confirmed he's seen the posters, adding, "I am aware of concerns generally about rising rents and am sympathetic to anyone having to move and look for an apartment."

Brewerton also calls himself a "supporter of affordable housing" and says his involvement is only under the instructions of his clients, much like a lawyer.

"Specifically, as a realtor, I would have no role or ability to intervene in any situation of tenants who are being displaced, as this would be a matter between the landlord and the tenants," he adds.

But the tenants behind the campaign see things differently — that both real estate agents and buyers contribute to the loss of affordable housing.

"The consequences of these evictions can be literally life and death for folks who rely on their neighbours, friends, doctors and social workers to get by," the website reads.

About the Author

Lauren Pelley

City Hall reporter

Lauren Pelley is a CBC reporter in Toronto covering city hall and municipal affairs. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca