The [Dis]placement Project: Tools for Tenant Rights

Project Name

The [Dis]placement Project: Tools for Tenant Rights

Project Partners

Lead Agency: Social Planning & Research Council of Hamilton (SPRC)
Partner Agency: Core Collaborative Learning, the City of Hamilton’s Neighbourhood Action Strategy and Municipal Law Enforcement, the Immigrants Working Centre and the Hamilton Community Action Program for Children
Legal Partner: Hamilton Community Legal Clinic

Project Summary

This project will educate tenant/ community leaders, front line workers, and community developers in how to understand the law, specifically as it relates to the ability of landlords to redevelop and gentrify their buildings.

Legal Topics for Training

The training will discuss the following strategies that are often used by landlords:

  • eviction notices related to landlords alleging that they want to move into their properties
  • above-guideline rent increase applications at the Landlord and Tenant Board
  • landlords’ failure to maintain and repair rental properties

Target Audience

The training will be offered to the following groups:

  • community developers
  • systems navigators
  • housing workers
  • settlement workers
  • tenant and community leaders in the East Hamilton community

Key Activities

Training will be delivered by project partners in accordance with their areas of expertise: SPRC and City staff will lead the gentrification and implications module; legal clinic staff will conduct the majority of the training on legal issues and information; and community development staff will facilitate discussion on ways that the the new information can be used in the day to day work of the participants. Trainers will use adult education techniques such as role playing, inter-active games, mock trials, and inter-active discussions and panels. They will also use case studies that come from the work experience of the project partners and the participants.

Some of the training directed to community leaders will be offered in languages other than English or French, depending on what languages they are most comfortable learning in.

Need for Training

Hamilton, like many other midsized cities in Canada, is experiencing a major gentrification of many of its neighbourhoods that have traditionally offered low cost housing. As families are pushed out of the Toronto real estate market due to high housing prices, places such as Hamilton are seen as affordable alternatives. Landlords recognize the potential for generating much greater revenues through renovated housing and are using a variety of means to renovate existing housing stock. In order to renovate, tenants have to vacate their premises, and landlords have been seen to be using a wide range of legal and not so legal ways to get current tenants out of their buildings.

This situation is resulting in a serious decline of affordable and low cost housing and is displacing many families who have lived in their apartments for years. The majority of the families being displaced through this gentrification process are immigrants who do not speak English or French, a situation that leaves them at even greater risk of being taken advantage of by their landlord. The result of this process of forcing people out of long term housing and their communities and limiting the amount of affordable housing is causing great disruption in the community, impacting quality of life and community engagement.

Without knowledge of what a landlord can legally do with regard to renovating units, tenants are left vulnerable to such situations as being ‘bought’ out of their units for $1000 (a situation that many families have faced).

Innovative Approach

The content area of the training is innovative. The SPRC knows of few, if any, training projects directed to this particular aspect of housing law. The approach that the SPRC will takeis also innovative in that it includes both direct legal information that will assist workers and leaders in knowing how to deal with challenges to tenancies. Participants will learn what landlords cannot do and will therefore be able to identify situations when landlords are not complying with the law and putting tenants at risk for homelessness.

The SPRC will also videotape presenters in various languages, translate all print materials, and conduct workshops in Urdu, Punjab, Somali, Khmer, and Arabic. These workshops will be uploaded to various social media outlets for everyone to access. The SPRC will also reach out to other communities struggling with this issue and provide a model for a coordinated response. A webinar is contemplated for publicizing the project outputs & outcomes and materials will be accessible electronically.