Thorncliffe Park tenants continue the rent strike as Starlight, the company that owns Starlight who manages apartments, reportedly begins the eviction process for the over 100 tenants who are participating in the strike.
Starlight is one of the largest real estate firms in Canada and is owned by PSP Investments.
Last week, tenants of the 79, 75 and 71 apartment blocks owned by Starlight found N4 notices on their doors. A N4 notice is the beginning process for landlords in the eviction process after non-payment.
With this many people potentially being evicted, the tenants were scared when they first received the letter, says Sameer Beyan, an organizer and tenant of the Thorncliffe rent strike.
“We’ve been meeting in lobbies telling people not to panic [the N4] is just the beginning of the process but not the end,” says Beyan.
“[Getting N4 notices] was something that we had anticipated because we’re on a rent strike we’re not paying our rent,” says Amina, another organizer and tenant of the Thorncliffe rent strike who has asked CJRU to withhold her full name as her involvement would cause issues with her job. “We as tenants had hoped that at least in good faith that the landlord would meet with us to try to come up with a solution.”
These notices were given out without warning, according to the tenants, as the landlord has not reached out to speak publicly about the strike. Beyan says that the only communication from the landlord has been one on one phone calls with the tenants protesting in which they were offered 200 dollars off of their rent and 50 dollars if they turned on their auto-desposits.
“Starlight has been calling attendants to pay their rents, I’m not sure why they didn’t call me,” says Beyan. “We’re actually entitled quite a long time ago to get more than 200 dollars but Starlight fought to lower that amount to 200 dollars.”
The strike is over an above provincial guideline rent increase in 2022 and 2023. The guideline recommends a 1.2 and 2.5 per cent increase in 2022 and 2023 respectively. Beyan says that Starlight increased Thorncliffe rent by 4.2 per cent in 2022 and 5.5 per cent in 2023.
“5.5 per cent basically is quite a lot for us,” says Beyan. “My rent is about 1300 and approximately with this above guideline increase if they continue to complement them for the next year as well I’m looking close to a 200 dollars monthly increase.”
Beyan is on the lower side of the rent increases: he says that some of the newer tenants will be facing an increase of above 600 dollars. The majority of people living in Thorncliffe are on a fixed income or living paycheck to paycheck, Beyan adds.
While the strike started at the beginning of May, they have been organizing months in advance. Members of the strike went to the Starlight offices seven times throughout 2022 in an attempt for their concerns to be heard. Each time, security came by to usher them away with the threat of the police being called, says Beyan.
“There have been several actions over the last year and in various ways that message has been delivered but it has remained consistent, drop above guideline increases,” says Amina. “PSP and Starlight do not respect the fact that we are people living here. These are our homes, our families, our hopes, dreams and futures. We are just seen as an investment, like a way for them to make more money.”
With the increases, Beyan and Amina say that many of the tenants will not be able to afford the rent. They say that Thorncliffe is made up of people living paycheck to paycheck and people on various benefits like the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
Beyan and the other tenants are doubtful the rent increase will go into making the apartment better places to live. Beyan says that the water in his building has been shut off three times in the last year which he says is a recurring issue. Around the same time renovations were made to the balconies and hallways of the buildings, says Beyan.
CJRU has reached out to Starlight for comment. They have yet to respond.
The tenants plan to stay on strike until their demands are met.
Listen below for more on how the strike was organized: