The coronavirus pandemic has caused a series of crises in Ontario. One of them is the dramatic impact it has had in the housing sector. Homeless people have been exposed to the virus in overcrowded shelters. Encampments have grown exponentially as a result. Cities across the province have already or are threatening to bulldoze the encampments. The unemployment rate in Ontario has doubled since the pandemic began. After CERB finished and the emergency freeze on evictions was lifted in August, thousands of tenants were not able to keep up with their rent and have been evicted or are in the process of being evicted. These evictions are disproportionately low-income and racialized tenants.
The Ford government also passed Bill 184 which weakens tenants’ rights, by favouring landlords in the eviction process. Only 3% of tenants at Landlord Tenant Board hearings have representation, compared to 80% of landlords who attend. Currently the LTB is holding an online blitz of hearings in order to evict at least a hundred families a day. Many tenants are being evicted in abstentia, because they are ill or don’t understand the process or don’t have the electronic means to attend an online hearing or have been caught up in a Kafkaesque electronic process that kicks people out of hearing rooms at random.
While Canada has acknowledged that housing is a human right, governments, at all levels, have failed to provide adequate permanent social housing. They have instead developed market-based solutions to increase the housing stock which tend to only incentivize developers to set aside “affordable” housing at 80% of average market rent which is unaffordable for most working families.
The fightback against evictions and support for encampments has steadily grown since the summer. Many of our comrades are involved and organizing in these struggles. They have developed a labour resolution that has been passed in whole or in part by Labour Councils in Durham, Guelph, Kingston and Toronto with more on the agenda.
The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) demands that the various levels of government:
- Repeal Bill 184
- Extend the ban on evictions and foreclosures
- Place all units, including vacant ones, under rent control to eliminate the two-tier system
- Ban “renovictions,” and implement a system of rent-rollbacks so that tenants pay only 20% of their household income on rent
- Reverse policy on vacancy decontrol, which incentivizes landlords to kick out tenants and hike up rent prices
- Immediately implement a comprehensive plan to fund and build permanent rent-geared-to-income social housing (where rent is based on 20% of household income) to meet the needs of underhoused and homeless populations of Ontario.
In the coming months, the Ontario Committee of the Communist Party, and its newly established Housing Commission, will relaunch its Housing campaign and continue to support those who struggle against a brutal capitalist system that throws people and families into the street during a pandemic.
Special Resolution of the Ontario Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of Canada, November 29, 2020.