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'We’re not empty investments': Toronto tenants say they wait months for bug infestations, flooding

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Tenants and politicians are warning Toronto will see more people experiencing homelessness if action isn’t taken to address the city’s housing crisis.

NDP Housing Critic and Vancouver MP Jenny Kwan is travelling in Ontario calling for the federal government to bring in a moratorium on the acquisition of housing by corporate landlords, and to close tax loopholes associated with Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).

“Those investors right now do not pay the corporate tax rate. Even though they operate like a corporation. And the government has given them a tax break for all these years. The corporate tax rate is 38 per cent, but they don’t pay that corporate tax,” Kwan said at a press event in St. James Town, in northeast Toronto, on Tuesday.

Instead, Kwan said the money should be invested in non-profit and co-op housing so when buildings come on the market, they can be purchased.

Some tenants in the neighbourhood say they are struggling, from having to cope with a lack of maintenance to dealing with months-long bug infestations.

“I feel frustrated, a little bit angry too because I’m paying to live here and they are not doing their job,” said tenant Isaac Munoz. He said in addition to waiting for seven months for the bug issue to be fixed, there is a humidity problem in his bathroom.

Sixty-two-year-old Michael Regan has a fixed income and lives on the ground floor of his building.

Regan said during the pandemic his unit flooded, which caused serious damage and took two years to fix.

He said the repairs were only done after he was treated in hospital for bug bites and after the tenant organization – Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) – got involved.

“We’re human beings here. We’re not empty investments here that they can take their time in fixing,” Regan said.

ACORN’s downtown chair, Rama Fayaz believes there’s a strategy at work by large corporate landlords.

He said he knows tenants forced out of rental units who became homeless.

“They just want to increase the rent so for them, it’s better. Because of legislation that we have, they cannot increase the rents of the tenants who already live here. So for any excuse, they have to kick out the tenants, and they accept new tenants with much higher rent,” Fayaz said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Office of the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion said it is ta king "concrete actions to protect the most vulnerable."

"Our government remains committed to tackling the financialization of housing across Canada and that’s why we have introduced important measures to address it. This includes a two-year ban on foreign investment in Canadian housing, a tax on underused foreign-owned homes, the taxing of assignment sales, and ensuring that property flippers pay their fair share," the spokesperson said.

"We will continue to build on these investments and the progress we have made thus far, to ensure that every Canadian gets access to safe and affordable housing that meets their needs."

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