Yesterday, hundreds of tenants, members of community organizations and labour unions marched down Weston Road in York South-Weston to demand fair rent for all and stand in solidarity with striking tenants at 33 King and 22 John.
33 King and 22 John share the same corporate landlord, Dream Unlimited, who has over $16 billion in assets and 30,000 rental units under its control.
We began the march in front of 33 King St where hundreds of tenants have been on rent strike since June 1st because Dream Unlimited has increased their rents more than three times higher than rent control, despite being a rent controlled building.
Sharlene Henry, tenant leader at 33 King and co-chair of the York South-Weston Tenant Union, got the rally started talking about her family and how she’s fighting side by side with her neighbours to defend the place we all call home. “This isn’t about free rent, it’s about fairness. We’ll pay our rent when Dream Unlimited sits down to negotiate these excessive increases with us as a tenant union, but so far they only want to talk about ‘community programming’. We don’t want charity. We want rent control.”
We were joined by members of local community organizations like Weston King Neighbourhood Centre, local drop-in centre. Weston is has some of the busiest food banks & meal programs in the city. The main reason people have to go is because they cannot afford their rent.
“For the last 6 months, Dream has been shopping around to local community organizations seeking to donate moderate sums of money, but amount of so-called charity will fix the problems they have created & intensified by increasing rents so exuberantly.” - Bryan Douthwright, WKNC
President of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council, Andria Babbington, led us in a chant to remind us that we’re strong together and we CAN stop greedy landlords! “The people united will never be defeated!”
Former York South-Weston MPP Faisal Hassan also spoke in solidarity with tenants on rent strike at 33 King & 22 John: “We need the Ford government to implement real rent control and immediately BAN Above Guideline Rent Increases!”
Then we passed 22 John St, a building that joined the rent strike on July 1st because of monthly rent increases ranging from 7 to 10 percent year-over-year, since the building opened in 2018 and is not rent controlled.
"Whose wage goes up 10 percent every year? Not mine. Not my neighbours’. Just Michael Cooper’s.” says Anthony Alao, tenant leader at 22 John St. Michael Cooper is CEO of Dream Unlimited, whose latest financial statements boast 50% of the rent they collect as profit.
Then we marched down Weston road to Michael Ford’s office. Beverly Henry, a retired senior on rent strike demands the Ford Government brings back real rent control for all: “Too many of us have to choose between paying the rent or buying food, and it shouldn’t be this way”
CUPE Ontario: “Rents are going up far faster than wages & our neighbours on rent strike are saying enough is enough! When the Ford government wont keep corporate greed in check, it’s up to all of us to stand up & draw the line for them!”
OPSEU, in support of striking tenants, also had a message for Michael Ford & the conservative government: “the Ford Government has imposed Bill 124 on our members that means our wages can’t go up more than 1%, yet rents are going up 6-10% every year. It just doesn’t add up”
Unifor supported the strike with a clear message from Lana Payne, “the fight for tenants’ rights is directly linked to our struggle for workers' rights, as such Unifor stands in full solidarity with striking tenants at 33 King & 22 John” (ps - thanks for the ponchos!)
Jessica Bell, housing critic for the Ontario NDP, shared a message in solidarity: “When Ford dismantled rent control, he left tenants vulnerable to monthly rent increases of $150-$300, like we’re seeing right now at 22 John. Everyone deserves a safe, stable, & affordable place to call home”
Then we marched to Federal Housing Minister and local MP Ahmed Hussen’s office. 33 King tenant Mohammed Abdiraziz spoke outside the office, noting the government is giving public money to Dream, about how Dream is trying to intimidate and threaten tenants & sending security to follow them. “Dream thinks these actions will scare us, but they only make us stronger”
Marcia Stone, chair of the Weston chapter of ACORN, gave a powerful speech about tenant challenges. “We’ve come to this office time & time again, but Ahmed Hussen has never met with tenants”
Sharlene Henry, tenant leader at 33 King and a Unifor member: “What we’re experiencing at 33 King & 22 John when it comes to corporate greed exploiting tenants, workers are experiencing across the province and across the country. Dream Unlimited is squeezing tenants out of our homes despite record profits, and our local elected officials are letting it happen. If they won’t stand up for tenants, then we’re standing up for each other until something changes.”
We finished things off with a community BBQ and live music because at the heart of everything we do is community and defending our right to be here.