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Lewis and Cuddy call for moratorium on 'renovictions' as pressure mounts on tenants of Webster Street apartments

The plight of tenants at the Webster Street apartments in northeast London, Ont. has reached the attention of Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

On May 29, Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis and Ward 3 Coun. Peter Cuddy sent a letter to Minister Steve Clark and Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Rob Flack asking for a temporary moratorium on so-called ‘renovictions’ until long-term measures aimed at protecting tenants are enacted by the province.

It is in response to weeks of rising tension at the Webster Street apartments where many tenants said they’re being pressured to give up their units ahead of their new landlord’s plan to renovate the two buildings.

Tenant Ron Baker describes the impact that the situation is having on neighbours.

“They’re virtually having a nervous breakdown,” said Baker, who has been offering moral support. “I expect we’re going to see somebody in this building or the other one die because they get so frustrated.”

“It’s really draconian methods the new owner is using, and it’s affecting the wellness and health of the residents,” Cuddy told CTV News London.

On April 5, Clark announced proposed legislation aimed at combating renovictions — when landlords force tenants out of their units for renovations and subsequently hike the rent above the tenant’s ability to pay.

However, Lewis explained that a window of opportunity exists for continued renovictions until the legislation becomes law.

“I’m glad [the province] is working on it, but we need a short-term stopgap measure to give those processes a time to get through [Queens Park] and get those changes legally put in place,” Lewis said.

The letter asks the minister to temporarily enact a moratorium on renovictions to, “prevent landlords from extortionary measures.”

“It’s imperative, we need to do it immediately,” said Cuddy about the urgent situation facing tenants.

A 'No Trespassing' sign outside the Webster Street apartments in London, Ont. is seen on May 31, 2023. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)

The letter describes the majority of tenants who live at Webster Street apartments as elderly, disabled, or on a fixed income which puts them at risk of homelessness if they lose their units.

“We can’t afford to have another 200 homeless people out to the streets here in London, and I know other cities would say the same thing about their situations,” the deputy mayor added.

The letter also requests doubling the housing allowance for ODSP recipients to help disabled tenants retain their units.

On Wednesday, a woman who answered the phone at the landlord’s telephone number said no one was authorized to comment— and hung up.

CTV News London sent three questions to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing about the letter from Cuddy and Lewis.


Here is the response from Minister Steve Clark’s Spokesperson Victoria Podbielski

Question 1: Will the Minister institute a temporary moratorium on so-called “renovictions” until a long-term solution is enacted by the province?

Answer: Our Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants plan contains a suite of new actions to make life easier for renters by strengthening tenant rights and protections. For example, we’re proposing to further strengthen protections against evictions due to renovations, demolitions and conversions, as well as those for landlord’s own use. We’re also looking at measures to give existing tenants the right to move back into the new unit at a similar rent. This would help protect affordable housing while encouraging the revitalization of older, deteriorating buildings and increasing rental housing supply.

Question 2: Will the Minister immediately double the ODSP housing allowance to prevent more Ontarians from losing their apartments due to justified rent increases based on necessary renovations and upgrades?

Answer: Under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) every tenant facing eviction has the right to a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). If a landlord gives a tenant notice to end the tenancy, the tenant does not have to move out unless and until an eviction order is issued by an adjudicator. Moreover, if a tenant is asked to vacate a unit for the purpose of renovations, they have the right of first refusal to return to their unit if requested in writing to their landlord. We are currently proposing to double the maximum fines under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, bringing them to $100,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations – reinforcing Ontario’s maximum fines as the toughest in Canada.

Question 3: What is the Minister doing to prevent landlords from so-called “renoviction” activities that force Ontarians from apartments that become unaffordable for the current tenants?

Answer: As part of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), our government increased income support rates by five per cent, the biggest increase in decades. The first adjustment to ODSP rates will take place in July, based on inflation. Additionally, we have increased the earnings exemption by 400 per cent, which will enable thousands of people on ODSP to fill the more than 300,000 open jobs in Ontario and increase their earnings by 400 per cent without impacting their support payments. Top Stories

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