Parkdale Community Groups Confront Gentrification
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Parkdale Community Groups Confront Gentrification

Displacement and unfair rent increases among challenges raised in a Monday night forum.

Parkdale Housing Forum Pic
Almost 100 Parkdale residents, community members and activists crammed into the Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre last night at 1499 Queen Street West in order to discuss the proliferation of evictions and rent increases caused by gentrification-driven displacement.

The forum allowed residents of the community to exchange their personal stories of housing insecurity and to offer ideas as to how the community can put an end to further rent increases and illegal evictions.

The Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust (PNLT), a community-controlled non-profit organization of residents and local agencies, was one of the organizing committees of the forum. The PNLT is trying to acquire and manage land in the community to ensure the availability of secure and affordable housing.

According to Joshua Barndt, Project Co-ordinator for PNLT, development increased by 126 per cent between 1996 and 2006. During that time, rent values increased by 93 per cent, and more than 45 affordable homes and rooming houses were lost in North Parkdale. Barndt also noted that 90 per cent of Parkdale residents are renters, with 40 per cent either low-income residents or living on social assistance.

As the forum was opened up to community members, residents told stories of being bullied and intimidated by developers and displacement.

Some South Parkdale residents referred to an incident this past July in which condo developer, BSAR Development, evicted 27 community members from the Queen’s Hotel at 1521 Queen Street West. Residents were reportedly given seven days notice to leave the premises after being told that the developer was going to do renovations.

The community and various organizations, including the Red Cross, banded together to find housing for those who were displaced and to acquire legal services against the actions of BSAR Development.

One of those residents, 51 year-old Vinnie Diano, suffers from serious medical issues. Diano called the Queen’s Hotel home before being illegally evicted. He still has not found adequate housing and is living with a friend and King and Elm Avenue.

“You can’t just give people seven days [eviction] notice. [Landlords] think that they can just bully us because they have money but we know our rights and will fight them,” Diano told the crowd.

The residents also spoke of ongoing protests, by tenants of multiple mid and high-rise buildings on Jameson Avenue, against rent increases by the Swedish-based landlord corporation Akelius.

In both situations tenants and local agencies, including Parkdale Community Legal Services, organized to support the rights of the tenants.

Cheri DiNovo, the Parkdale—High Park MP for the past nine years, was also there.

“There are specific things that can be done immediately so that these types of illegal evictions do not occur in the future,” said Di Novo.

Di Novo gave the example of the St. Lawrence Market as a community where low income housing and Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) residents and homeowners all live together without the sense of housing insecurity that is felt in the South Parkdale community.

“What do we want? We don’t need little Rosedales all over this city. It is the mix we want and the mix is what we need,” says Di Novo.

Di Novo, along with other Parkdale residents and community activists, called for a national housing strategy. Di Novo also demanded that landlords be made to obtain licensing for their properties and that licences only be granted based on how they maintain those developments.

Peggy Nash, the NDP MPP for the riding, was also in attendance at last night’s forum and echoed the residents calls for rent control and direct action.

“I attended every rally against Akelius. Over the last 25 years, Canada has cut its housing funding by half. We need to put some goddamn money into housing,” Nash said.

There are currently 78,000 people on a waiting list for community housing in Toronto.