Tenants rights raised at Toronto-Danforth debate

http://www.torontoobserver.ca/2010/10/15/tenants-rights-raised-at-toronto-danforth-debate/

Alicia Baird
Posted 15 October 2010

Maureen Codd (foreground left) and brother Paul Codd (right), listen in at the Toronto-Danforth all-candidates debate on Oct. 14.
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All Maureen Codd wanted to do was move into an apartment building with a clean slate.

“Don’t do anything,” was her motto and she hoped no issues would get in the way.

All of that changed the morning of July 20, 2008, when a hydro vault explosion sent flames through her 2 Secord Place apartment. Dozens of families living in the 21-storey high rise were forced out of their homes for more than a month. That’s when Codd, 50, realized her attitude had to change.

“When the building blew up I said, ‘We have to do something.’ We couldn’t just let people suffer,” she said. “For six weeks and six days we were out of the building and we saw some of the tenants in their bare bones, some in night clothes and some with no money and these are very proud people.”

Her brother, Paul Codd, believes the effects of the explosion showed a level of negligence from their landlord at the time. He’s now involved with the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association (FMTA) http://www.torontotenants.org/ and ANC (Action for Neighbourhood Change) http://www.anccommunity.ca/ .

Codd, 58, voiced his opinion about tenants’ rights during a recent Toronto-Danforth all-candidates meeting.

During a recent Toronto-Danforth all-candidates meeting on Thursday evening to spread awareness on the licensing of landlords. Although their fire damaged Main and Danforth apartment building is covered by Ward 31 – Beaches, East York http://www.janetdavis.ca/, they want to help people everywhere.

“Our city officials were doing everything they could … but our landlord property management couldn’t care less. I hope to get tenants to know that we can stand up; we can be counted; and I would like landlords to know the same,” he said.

Codd’s sister echoed his sentiments.

“We care about helping people and we don’t care about what political station you are ,” she said. If you need help, then there needs to be somebody there who cares.”

When the brother and sister duo presented their ideas about landlord licensing, they were met with mixed reviews from the candidates. Mary Fragedakis http://www.maryfragedakis.ca/, Chris Caldwell http://www.caldwellforcouncil.ca/ and Mike Restivo http://mikerestivo.org/electrestivo/ were in favour of landlord licensing, while John Richardson http://www.johnrichardson.ca/, Jennifer Wood http://votejenniferwood.ca/ and Jane Pitfield http://www.voteforjane.com/ were against it.

As a former tenant and landlord, Richardson guaranteed the worst thing that could happen for tenants in Toronto is to have a licensing regime in place. He feels it would discourage people from becoming landlords and stressed the need for more rental housing.

Restivo believes there is a need for landlord licensing, citing current landlord abuse as an example.

“I would support landlord licensing. …Notwithstanding the existing bylaws and the initiatives, there is still abuse. Some landlords need to be aware of the system and know how to work the system,“ Restivo said.

In the end, Codd feels the landlord licensing initiative is an ongoing process. He is hopeful more people will get on board.

“I feel like it’s an idea that hasn’t had its day yet,” he said.

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    http://www.insidetoronto.com/news/local/article/885217–tenant-issues-a-hot-topic-at-ward-31-debate

    Tenant issues a hot topic at Ward 31 debate
    Bedbugs among key concerns identified

    Tenant issues were a big topic of concern at the Ward 31 (Beaches-East York) debate held Thursday, Oct. 7, at Gower Park Place.

    The non-profit housing building near Victoria Park Avenue and Dawes Road hosted the debate organized by the Scarborough Civic Action Network. Nearly 50 people came out to hear six of the seven council candidates answer questions about safety, taxes and housing.

    The first question touched on the problem of bedbugs and asked candidates whether they would be in favour of mandatory landlord licensing.

    Incumbent Janet Davis said she has been working with tenants for many years and was in favour of the idea.

    “We need to look at everything possible to make them look after their buildings and clean up bedbugs,” she said. “We spend so much money enforcing property standards bylaws, your tax dollars should not be used to force landlords to clean up buildings.”

    Brenda MacDonald is in favour of taking a more aggressive approach to dealing with landlords who don’t maintain their properties.

    “I do believe licensing of landlords would be appropriate, but I’m not sure how fast our legislation can put that into place,” she said, adding something needs to be done immediately to address tenants’ concerns.

    Rasal Rahman knows firsthand the issues tenants face as he lives in a building that has some problems.

    “Landlords should be responsible for these things, as well as the city too,” he said.

    Donna Braniff and Robert Walker were also in favour of licensing, while Leonard Subotich was the lone voice against.

    “I’m opposed to licensing landlords,” he said. “It’s just another drag on businesses.”

    Another question posed about housing was how the candidates would work to alleviate the long waiting list for affordable housing in the city.

    Most candidates believed this is a problem that needs all levels of government to come together on.

    Some also thought it was a place for private developers too.

    “The people of Toronto have a lot of building going on…Instead of having the builders donate money, have them put affordable housing into those units,” Braniff said.

    Davis said this is a problem the city has tried to address, but without the upper levels of government there to support them it’s difficult.

    Candidates also presented their visions for making the ward a safer place.

    “Safety is a concern…mostly in this ward along Danforth where there are so many for lease buildings,” MacDonald said, adding she’d like to see more police walking or biking the beat to be a more visible presence.

    Walker would like to see more people on the street and more lighting, and more enforcement in known trouble areas.

    “We can go to the places where we know there’s crime and shut them down,” he said.

    Braniff said she was part of a safety audit done on Main Street and nothing came of it.

    “The community needs a better safety plan in place,” she said. “We in the community are dealing with the drug dealing and the prostitution.”

    Davis pointed out crime statistics have gone down in 54 Division in recent years.

    “Do we have some challenging areas? Yes. I agree there are some spots on the Danforth that we should shut down,” she said. “The Danforth is getting much better. It’s beautiful.”

    For many candidates the fiscal situation at city hall is another big concern.

    “Taxes have gone up because city hall doesn’t take care of our money. Services have gone down because city hall is not spending our money on services,” Walker said. “What I would do is find out where we’re overspending. The city budget needs to be gone through line by line.”

    Braniff doesn’t believe taxpayers are getting value for money while MacDonald said more disclosure is needed.

    Davis defended the city budget and pointed out 75 per cent of the operating budget is for police, fire, EMS, TTC and mandatory social services.

    “So when people talk about rolling back taxes and cutting taxes you should ask them what they’ll cut to achieve that,” she said. “There are not easy solutions, but you’re being given false, simple solutions.”

    Recreation services and child care were also discussed.

    Candidate Peter Agaliotis was absent while Rahman left early.

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