Raise the minimum wage to $14  — Freeze rents
By Frances Sedgwick
True North Perspective
Frances Sedgwick's keen eye and ear for the human condition reveals the heart and soul of Parkdale in southwest Toronto, one of the country's most turbulent urban areas where the best traditions of human kindness prevail against powerful forces that would grind them down. True North Perspective proudly presents a column by writer Frances Sedgwick. Her critical observation combined with a tender sense of humour will provide you with something to think about ... and something to talk about.

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Saturday 01 February 2014 — One recent morning I weathered the cold and biting winds and went swimming. So cold was it that I even took a cab to get back to my routine which had sadly been interrupted with holidays, storms, and other excuses.

While in the swimming pool familiar faces smiled and welcomed me back. Glad to see you are okay.

Right away I remembered what a wonderful, therapeutic, experience this always is. All these regulars, mostly, seniors, enjoying company while keeping fit.

  Image: Demonstrator carries sign demanding minimum wage raise to $14 per hour.

Then over the lifeguard’s megaphone came the announcement, “Today is Lucy’s 80th birthday.” Everyone started singing happy birthday and clapping. Great stuff!

While swimming I met a young mother. She remarked “I must be the youngest one here.” We got into a conversation and discovered we were neighbours and both lived in MetCap apartment buildings.

As my new acquaintance and I talked she mentioned her rent is going up 8½% spread over three years — that is 3.3% a year. Apparently this is justified by “renovations”. This is well above the Provincial Guideline this year of .8%. She said soon none of us will be able to live in Parkdale anymore. 

I sympathised with her saying, “The same thing is happening in my building. I guess we can expect the same increase that you just received.”

MetCap is a really bad company managing or owning a lot of apartment buildings in Parkdale.

They do superficial repairs to their buildings, and then raise the rents above the provincial guideline.

MetCap are slum landlords, letting conditions in their buildings deteriorate, not responding to tenant’s complaints about burst radiators, pests, lack of heat, broken elevators, the list goes on.

A big sign is posted in front of the buildings advertising “High End Apts”. One resident's son commented these are high end all right you have your own workout program going up and down the stairs because the elevator is broken.

What happens is that when old tenants move out MetCap renovates the apartments and really jacks up the rents. This is allowable because of the present provincial law. But these new “high end” apartments with rent for a bachelor apartment $960 a month, a one bedroom $1,100, a two bedroom $1,300, have to suffer the same conditions as everyone else. Bad conditions.

In one incident a new tenant who was stranded because of the broken elevator, had his luggage ready to go for his departure to the airport. Sure enough the elevator was not working. He loudly complained, "I pay $960 for a bachelor apartment and the elevator doesn’t work. I just moved in." One long-time resident said, "Hey, here we don't discriminate between new and old tenants, disasters are for all.”

Parkdale is home to a diverse population. Many seniors on fixed incomes have lived here for years in the same building. New immigrants found their first home here and are working two to three jobs at the minimum hourly wage of $10.25 (to time of writing) to survive. Others are working families spending a large percentage of their income on rent, thus having to go to food banks to get by. Recent studies show that about 11 per cent of food bank users in Ontario are employed, but must rely on food banks to survive.

These conditions are unacceptable.

This brings to mind the Campaign to RAISE the MINIMUM WAGE! to $14 an hour.

As of this writing the minimum wage has been frozen for three years while rent, food and transit costs have soared! It’s time to melt the freeze, and then index the minimum wage to the cost of living each year.

At the same time we must bring back meaningful rent control and freeze rents! With an Ontario provincial election on the horizon we must force the political parties to take a stand on these issues. To this date these topics are not on their priority lists so far as I have seen. Neither is building more affordable housing.

My Parkdale

Frances Sedgwick