Wednesday Oct 04

NORTHERN LIGHT - In Toronto, It's Open Season on Renovictions

I got evicted in the summer of 2016.  My spouse and I were thinking about building a family and were living in a basic but spacious two-floor/two-bedroom apartment in Toronto’s west end. The entire section of the city was already well gentrified when we got there, so I will spare you the tales about me being a victim of the gentrifiers. Nonetheless, it sure was the place we wanted to live.  

Our landlord lived below us on the main floor of the large brick house. He was a CBC news videographer.  I ran into him one time on the elevator at Toronto City Hall. I blurted out something like, “Hey! Long time no see! Going to cover the Rob Ford gong show!?!”  His silent response of an awkward glance was followed a few months later by an email telling us we had to move.   

He could have just renovicted us, seeing that he was going to take over the upstairs unit, renovate it, and live in the whole house by himself.  Instead, he went with the sure-fire route of a landlord-use eviction, which is allowed in every province in Canada. 

A recent report put out by Silas Xuereb and Craig Jones from the University of British Columbia states that landlord-use evictions are becoming more common and calls BC the eviction capital of Canada. 

The report’s announcement of the massive increase in personal-use evictions did not come as a surprise. With the BCNDP government clamping down on renovictions in 2021, personal-use evictions have shot up and have become the eviction de jour for investment landlords. An ACORN member in Metro Vancouver was evicted for landlord use, only to find her unit up for rent a few months later.

Eviction capital of Canada, though?  My sense is that while the data says BC has more evictions, the inconsistent and incomplete nature of province-by-province data collection makes it a hard claim to prove for certain.  

In Halifax, people are being displaced from Bedford to Cole Harbour. Our Halifax organizer had an eviction hearing just last week. She won an extra three months in her unit, along with a month's rent in compensation, but she is still getting evicted. 

In Toronto, it’s open season on renovictions, and you certainly don’t need a license. If you live in a non-purpose-built rental, like we did, you are living on borrowed time. 

Another report, this one from the Eviction Mapping Project out of First United Church on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, points out that many evictions are informal and not captured in what data is tracked by the province. Informal evictions have no hearing, no order to move, people just move when asked by their landlord. The problem, more than the lack of a data set on informal evictions, is that many of these evictions are predatory. Unlike mine, tenants who do have a legal right to tenure are frequently tricked out of their rent-controlled leases by unscrupulous landlords. First United’s study reports 28% of all tenants they surveyed were evicted informally. I would bet this is an underrepresentation of the problem. 

This response to the eviction crisis reminds me of the milquetoast response to the climate crisis. A bit of funding goes to a pilot project for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Then a report is released as the temperature rises saying that more projects like this one need to happen.  Meanwhile the temperature is rising. Every tenant in Vancouver, Halifax, or Toronto knows they are at risk of displacement. Solving the problem needs more than data, or the occasional brave and formidable tenant group effectively resisting their eviction. We need the damn laws to change! 

JOHN ANDERSON is the Field Director for ACORN Canada. Since 2004 John has helped to develop the ACORN Canada operations in Toronto, Ontario, and British Columbia. He is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg.