Community rallies behind residents displaced by North York apartment fire
Dozens of displaced residents gather outside a vacant apartment building which was damaged during a five-alarm fire last month.
TORONTO -- For the second straight day, dozens gathered on Sunday afternoon to rally in support of residents who were displaced after a five-alarm fire ripped through a North York apartment building last month.
Some 700 tenants were forced out of their homes after the fire broke out at 235 Gosford Boulevard on Nov. 15, killing one person and injuring six others.
In a news release issued Sunday, organizers of the rally said residents have expressed “frustration with the lack of appropriate and timely support and communication by the landlord, Ronkay Management Inc.”
"A decision was made to continue community actions to protest lack of full accountability and transparency on the part of the landlord and other official bodies, especially now that the holiday season is fast approaching," the news release reads.
Larissa Bablak is a tenant at 235 Gosford who attended the rally and said that the last month has been "confusing".
"It’s been really difficult to try to organize, to what’s going to be the next steps," Bablak said speaking outside of the now vacant building.
"Trying to make plans for later on is really difficult because you don’t know where you can put all your stuff. Where am I going to settle down? When can we start making plans to have a more stable outlook for what’s going to happen tomorrow?"
Following the Nov. 15 incident, some tenants were initially housed at an emergency shelter set up by the city at York University, but that facility was closed after two weeks and arrangements were made to transfer those without alternative accommodations to a nearby hotel.
In a post to a Facebook group titled "235 Gosford – Fire restoration status for residents", Ronkay Management said that they are hoping to have residents back in their apartments “sometime in the new year.”
"Everyone who has requested housing has been provided with temporary accommodation and those who chose to find their own housing solution have received a transition payment equal to their December rent," the post reads.
"Those staying in accommodations provided by Ronkay Management will continue to be lodged at Staybridge [suites], but will be required to pay rent including parking (the same as they paid in their apartment)."
The post goes on to detail the state of the building’s needed repairs, including industrial cleaning and several front door replacements. Ronkay said that 40 new doors have been ordered, but that the shipment won’t arrive until Dec. 19.
"Access to all suites is available by appointment so tenants may pack valuables, clothes, take pictures off walls, pack kitchens and closets to facilitate access by cleaners."
No timeline has been issued as to when residents can expect to return home, however, Mayor John Tory said that he has been told that it could be months.
On Saturday, about a dozen displaced tenants held a protest outside of the building expressing their frustration over the situation.
"When are we going to come home? When are we going to be able to be our self again?" asked one resident. "We are human beings, this is our home and they do need to step up," said another.
In addition to Saturday's rally, organizers have outlined a list of demands including no rent payments as long as tenants are displaced, compensation by the landlord for tenant transportation and food and for the Ontario Fire Marshall to release a report detailing the official cause of the fire.
With files from Chris Fox.