News / Toronto

What other tenants can learn from the Parkdale rent strike

After a long three-and-a-half months, organizers of the rent strike have declared it a success.

The rent strike, shown in this file photo, started in May.

Torstar News Service Order this photo

The rent strike, shown in this file photo, started in May.

After a long three-and-a-half months, the Parkdale rent strike has come to an end. Organizers declared victory, citing concessions from landlord MetCap Living Management Inc. including: reductions in planned above-guideline rent increases, relief for tenants facing financial hardship as well as a program of maintenance and repair work. (The company has maintained throughout the strike that they tried to address tenant concerns and set up a special hotline for repairs.)

Metro talked to Cole Webber, who helped organize the strike, about what other tenants can learn from their success.

Organize

Tenants said units badly needed repairs and that unfair rent hikes were designed to force them out. Instead of fighting alone, they banded together.

"The rent strike was successful because tenants organized in their buildings and then linked up across the neighbourhood in order to put that pressure on the landlord," said Webber. "Getting organized in your own building is the first step."

Communicate

Tenants formed committees in their buildings that brought neighbours together.

"They would hold meetings in lobbies of their buildings, they would do door-to-door outreach, they would have conversations one-on-one with their neighbours, and then as they got organized they expanded that to mass texts, email lists, phone trees," Webber explained.

Be bold

"When tenants organize there's strength in numbers, and so the rent strikers were able to take actions which were rather bold because they had that organization," he said. At its peak, according to Webber, the strike comprised 300 people in 12 buildings.

"There was some degree of hesitancy, but I think people felt like they had no other choice. They were put in a position where they felt they were being priced out of their homes and so they had to take collective action."

Work around the system

Webber said tenants shouldn't give up if they don't get results from official channels like the Landlord and Tenant Board.

"The system doesn't work for tenants, so tenants really need to find other ways of putting forward their demands — and the best way of doing that is by getting organized."

Take it forward

"I think the rent strikers are keen to continue organizing in Parkdale and to share the lessons that they've learned with their neighbours, and I'm sure they'd be open to speaking to tenants from other parts of the city as well," Webber said.

With files from Torstar News Service

More on Metronews.ca