Hamilton tenants: On April 1, May 1, and for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, keep your rent.
Before COVID19, tenants across Canada were struggling to make ends meet. We were already in the midst of the worst affordable housing crisis in the country’s history. Wages and social assistance rates are too low. Rent is too high. Here in Hamilton, this pressure was becoming unbearable. 45% of Hamilton tenants were spending more than 30% of our income on rent, and 20% of us were spending more than 50%. And it was only getting worse – in 2018, Hamilton saw the highest one-year average rent increase in all of Canada, at 24%.
And now with mass lay-offs, rising food costs, and widespread uncertainty, – COVID19 is forcing thousands of people in Hamilton, living in precarity, to survive through the toughest times, and make every last dollar stretch for them and their families.
On April 1, many of us will simply not be able to pay our rent. We have run out of money. Some of us may have enough to make rent this month, but probably not next month. Some of us may be okay for a little while longer, but are worried about our neighbours.
We don’t know how long this global pandemic will last, or what kind of long term consequences to prepare for. We do know that we need to prepare. We should save our money to spend on groceries, medicine, and taking care of our loved ones.
The provincial government has announced that evictions have been suspended and no new eviction orders can be issued until further notice. The Landlord and Tenant Board has closed and hearings put on hold. The sheriff’s office has been asked not to enforce outstanding evictions and has complied. For now, the eviction machine has stopped.
Landlords have additional wealth, resources and equity that make the COVID-19 situation easier to manage than tenants. This is especially true for landlords who own multiple homes and corporate landlords that own hundreds of units and have millions of dollars sitting in the bank. The government has already announced relief for property owners: a six month mortgage deferral in collaboration with Canada’s six largest banks. Our landlords will be fine. We may not be.
On April 1: If you can’t pay rent, don’t pay. And if you can pay rent, don’t pay. Stand in solidarity with your neighbours. The more of us that hold back our rent, the harder it will be for landlords and the courts to target our more vulnerable neighbours who simply don’t have the money. With thousands of tenants participating, we can organize to force landlords to cancel rent debt and void eviction applications associated with COVID-19.
Connect with your neighbours. Organize in your building, on your block, in your neighbourhood, and with other tenants across the city with the same landlord. Talk to your family, friends and other renters that you know in the city. Prepare to support each other and defend each other against the landlord’s response. Don’t fall for your landlord’s tricks. Don’t sign anything. No one knows how the situation will develop, so don’t agree to defer rent payments or sign agreements to repay it in installments.
Keep your rent!