The following is a deputation delivered to City Councillors ahead of the October 1 vote on the proposal to legalize multi-tenant housing.
I was relieved to hear that an affordable housing alternative, specifically, multiple tenant homes are on the horizon to finally give low and middle wage workers some hope to live with dignity. But then I unfortunately heard the labels ‘illegal’ and ‘transient’ referring to multiple-tenancy renters.
Stop the criminalization
These labels are highly biased ‘code’ words spreading stereotypes. We don’t move here from other places – we already live here! Many are low-income seniors who have resided here for decades. Many of us work here and our children attend school here. Some of these renters are university students who, for practical purposes to get to class, must ideally live in close proximity to school.
We are responsible people of all kinds and of all ages who, like people anywhere, are just trying to live our lives. If this vote doesn’t pass to legalize multiple-tenant homes, we will be forced to bear many more years of a worsening housing crisis and many people know exactly how that feels. We’d prefer to live without the painful criminalization and the harm to our livelihoods as a result of living in affordable multiple-tenant homes currently deemed illegal.
I am especially appealing to the hearts and minds of Scarborough house-owners to not discriminate against neighbours who cannot afford to buy a house. Please do not block people who need affordable apartments. High-rises are full and unaffordable due to an epidemic of A.G.I.s pushing us out. Please don’t ignore that city shelters have good intentions but are still proving inadequate. It’s a fact that shelters are not homes. Since minimum wage only goes up 10 cents for a total of $14.35 this October, why are we labeling and punishing people for not being able to afford currently sky-high rents?
It’s disheartening to know that many of my house-owning neighbours are attempting to petition us out and block the chance for low-income persons to live in regulated multiple-tenant homes. We’re hoping class hatred does not have the final word here: please do not block proposed affordable, regulated housing for low-income people.
Housing is a human right
It’s time to recognize the huge imbalance of power tilted towards wealthy powerful landlord companies, which is why tenants need this alternative of multi-tenant dwellings. We fight for affordable housing the same way we ALL fight for human rights! Recognize we are not criminals, but many of us are essential minimum wage workers who are unsung heroes, mainly unseen service people helping you stay safe in your home during this pandemic.
Time to discard false labels of criminality and remove biased barriers to affordable housing. I truly appreciate the City’s formal review regarding safety and crime, which has unequivocally proven that crime rates do not increase in areas where multiple-tenancy housing exists. Why should we punish elders who live in multiple-tenant dwellings? Why use privileged resources to block your lower paid neighbours from living here in peace? Your safety being at risk has been proven to be unfounded fears. Consider who is gaining by keeping neighbours in a xenophobic-like cold war. Living peacefully is what we all want and that means fulfilling the needs of all who live here. We should take this opportunity to steer clear of biased gentrification attitudes that spark unfounded yet very deep-seated fears keeping us locked against the well-being of fellow human beings.
Councilors voting ‘yes’ on Oct. 1 for this fair housing proposal will make history in contributing to the health and safety of thousands of people, and help us continue to live and work here safely with our neighbours, and accord us respect despite our low wages. Many of us are workers who help the elderly and disabled. When we are priced out of our homes with no alternative, then they will be, too. Our only hope right now is this particular affordable housing framework. Your ‘yes’ vote today will give renters hope. On behalf of so many families I’d like to invite my Councillor and all of you to choose to implement this affordable housing initiative in Scarborough, and to thank you for acknowledging that affordable ‘housing is a human right’.
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