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As demovictions rise in Toronto, more tenants worry they could soon join the trend

About 240 rental units in Toronto could move one step closer to being torn down for new developments Tuesday, causing their tenants to be victims of a demoviction in the process.

Toronto and East York Community Council to decide whether to recommend the demovictions or not

As demovictions rise in Toronto, more tenants worry they could soon join the trend

13 hours ago

Duration 2:19

About 240 rental units in Toronto could move a step closer to being torn down for new developments Tuesday, leaving their tenants victims of demoviction in the process. CBC's Lane Harrison explains.

About 240 rental units in Toronto could move one step closer to being torn down for new developments Tuesday, causing their tenants to be victims of a demoviction in the process.

A demoviction, or demolition driven eviction, is when a landlord evicts tenants from a building so that it can be demolished and redeveloped into new apartments or condos.

The applications to demolish and replace the units will be before the Toronto and East York Community Council Tuesday, which will decide whether to recommend city council approve the applications or not.

Eighty of those units are in a building near Jarvis and Bloor streets, where Ai Rei Dooh-Tousignant has lived for the past 14 years. She is the head of the building's tenants association and an organizer with the advocacy group No Demovictions.

"A lot of people are very anxious," Dooh-Tousignant said.

"What is going to happen to them? Are they going to lose their homes? Are their homes going to be safe? If they are going to lose their homes, when is that going to happen?"

Demovictions have been steadily rising in Toronto this decade, according to data from the city's website. In 2020, nine properties were approved for demolition and replacement. In 2023, that number more than doubled to 24.

Those approvals mean 3,122 rental units, including 1,993 affordable rentals, have been approved for demolition.

While city regulations give tenants the right to return to their units — newly constructed in the new buildings — at a similar price to what they were paying before, people whose homes end up in the rubble say they still suffer in the interim.

"We are seeing through these many demovictions that the supply of purpose built and rent controlled buildings is diminishing because those are the very ones that are being targeted for demovictions," said Dooh-Tousignant.

"So we can see very clearly how the supply that tenants will have access to during the displacement is shrinking."

City needs new builds everywhere: expert

Aside from mandating that people in the demolished buildings get their apartments back in new builds at a similar price, the city also offers support in the intervening period through rent gap funding. That funding is meant to help people living in rent controlled units afford market rents once they find a new place.

While those supports are key, Matti Siemiatycki, a planning professor and director of the Infrastructure Institute at the University of Toronto, said the act of demolition and replacement is still hard on tenants.

"It's disruptive to individuals and it's disruptive to communities," he said.

"Buildings become places of belonging. They become places where you know your neighbors. In some of these instances, there's multiple generations of families that live in the same building."

He said the city is seeing an increase in this sort of development practice because of one, well known reason: there is a housing crisis. Siemiatycki said building needs to happen everywhere — including publicly owned land, privately owned land like large shopping mall sites and elsewhere.

"Many of these buildings are in prime locations right beside or adjacent or nearby public transit. And in many cases the buildings that are on these sites could be intensified," he said.

'Developers have all the power'

One of the buildings set to be voted on Tuesday contains 121 units near Mount Pleasant Road and Eglinton Avenue E.

In this case, resident Megan Kee, also an organizer with No Demovictions, said tenants negotiated with the developers for additional protective measures.

The new development where their apartment building currently sits will be made up of multiple buildings, so Kee said tenants negotiated with the developer so that they will be able to stay in the existing building until another is built on the site. Once that building is done, they'll move into it and their current place will be demolished.

That means they won't have to find a new apartment in the current housing crisis, Kee said, though they'll still have to contend with construction noise and air pollution.

"Many would consider us to be lucky in the grand scheme of things, we're still losing our homes and we're still going to have a reduced quality of life as a result," she said.

She said she wants to see the city build more on vacant land than space already occupied by rent-controlled buildings. But while demovictions continue, she wants the city to stand with tenants.

"Developers have all of the power, tenants have very little rights in this process," she said. "Tenants really need the city to advocate for them to go above and beyond what is required currently by policy."

In an email, a city spokesperson pointed to recent updates to the way rent gap payments are calculated, which aim to ensure the payments are more reflective of current market rates.

They also said the city is reviewing its rental housing demolition policies in consultation with tenants and the development industry with a report due back at council in 2025.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lane Harrison

Reporter

Lane Harrison is a journalist with CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Toronto, he previously worked for CBC New Brunswick in Saint John. You can reach him at lane.harrison@cbc.ca

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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