On April 1, MPP Suze Morrison read-in the St. James Town Act to the Ontario Legislature.
Her statement when announcing the St. James Town Act to the media at the Queen's Park Press Gallery read:
Thank you for attending and thank you to the folks who are joining us from my riding and especially from St. James Town.
I am here today to talk a little bit about a series of traumatic events that have taken place in my community since last summer and about a bill that I will be tabling next week in response to these traumatic events.
As you know, in the late summer on 2018 a building in my riding, 650 Parliament St, had a series of devastating electrical fires that resulted in all of the nearly 1,500 residents being evacuated from that building. For days residents stayed in temporary accommodations on cots in community centres, in hotels and with family and friends only to find out that the damage to their building was so extensive that there was no estimated timeframe for them to be able to return home. The building is still under repair, and residents remain displaced across Toronto.
This winter, other high rise buildings in St. James Town experienced floods and electrical shutdowns. Some buildings were without heat, water, or electricity for several days during some of the coldest days this winter. The Red Cross was operating warming centres at the nearby community centre.
Imagine trying to go about your daily tasks - dropping the kids of at school, going to work, getting groceries, or taking the kids out to play at night - while having to walk up and down 30 flights of stairs in the dark, not having running water to flush your toilet, have a shower, or any electricity to store food in your fridge, light your unit, or cook a meal with.
In St. James Town and across Ontario too many tenants live in rental apartments that are in need of repairs, from leaky faucets to pest infestations to unsafe flooring— tenants ask for fixes only to be placated and told their landlord cannot afford it. Many buildings are lacking in maintenance for electrical systems, boilers, elevators, or any other critical system.
It’s time that in this province landlords of large buildings are finally required to fix their units — and to give tenants the services their rent actually pays for.
The bill I will be tabling next week: the St. James Town Act, will require landlords to maintain repair funds and provide rent abatements—which is a rent discount—when this critical upkeep is not done.
No building in Ontario should ever be allowed to deteriorate to a point where it is unsafe for residents. It is wrong for landlords to continue collecting sky-high rents but leave tenants without help when repairs are needed.
That’s why today I am very happy to announce the St. James Town act, because tenants in our province deserve so much better than having to be evacuated from their homes and live in limbo for months and months on end, with no end in sight.
If passed, our bill will:
- Require landlords to maintain a repair fund with a financial institution and deposit a small portion of rent every month into that account;
- Give tenants the opportunity to apply for a rent abatement (or discount) when repairs are not done;
- Allow for tenants to ask for a written hearing to receive the abatement in an effort to make the process more user-friendly.
Again, tenants in Ontario deserve better.