The perils of rental insecurity

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by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Those who rent their homes, rather than owning them, know all too well the insecurity that renting can bring. When someone else owns the property and building in which you live, the threat of possibly being kicked out of your home will always loom. For potentially more than 100 tenants of an apartment and townhouse complex in Cornwall, known as Cumberland Gardens, this fear became a very real nightmare at the end of last month. All tenants at the five apartment buildings and 30 townhouses were served with co-called “renoviction notices” – a play on words referring to landlords who serve eviction notices so that they can repair or upgrade their properties.

The action is completely legal, and also includes some simple protections such as the ability of the “renovicted” tenant to move back in after the renovations, without any rent increases. However, this can be a small comfort to those forced to move themselves and their families into small accommodations, such as motels, for months, and can be even worse for those who cannot find temporary replacement housing given the state of the current housing market.

Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont, Dundas, and South Glengarry, issued a statement in support of the tenants facing eviction in Cornwall, which spells out the laws in place meant to protect and compensate tenants in cases of “renoviction”. While many people may be quick to blame landlords for the perils caused by such mass temporary evictions, the pervasive lack of affordable housing, both locally and nationally, makes the problem much worse than it otherwise would be. Much the same as tenants may have a difficult time finding replacement accommodations when evicted, landlords would undoubtedly face difficulties completing much needed, and possibly even critical, upgrades and repairs if their tenants must be allowed to stay. It is a no-win situation exacerbated by a lack of housing options.

The Province of Ontario commissioned a housing task force, which released its report recently with recommendations intended to increase housing availability and affordability. Mayor Nancy Peckford also created a similar task force for North Grenville in 2019, which completed its final report in 2020. New housing projects have taken shape in the Municipality since then, but progress cannot be expected in any issue of such magnitude overnight. With rent and house prices still highly inflated across the country, combined with other increasing financial burdens, such as the cost of food and gas, the housing issue continues to bear down on families. There is no one factor to blame, only progress to seek.

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