By Rob McBean
Brave tenants in one of the worst private market housing buildings in the City of Toronto at 279 Woodfield Road made a great step on Thursday July 09. They overcame their fear of slumlord retaliation to organize a very effective, loud, and raucous demonstration at their tenement.
Their slumlord has been viciously taking advantage of them throughout the pandemic by refusing to do maintenance or pest control. They are forced to walk single file through a tiny crawlspace to enter and exit the building, with no social distancing possible. This has been the condition of the building throughout the ENTIRETY of the pandemic. Ideas about deep cleaning and disinfection of common areas become little more than a sick joke for the tenants at 279 Woodfield Road. Instead of cleaning the building to fight COVID, the landlord allows sewage to flood into most of the basement units every two or three weeks.
ACORN took the lead in making this needed demonstration happen, and it was a huge success. The local and provincial levels of government were both present in support of the tenants, as the Member of Provincial Parliament is from the NDP, and the municipal councillor is in the NDP sphere of influence. Socialist Action had a leading member present who made a brilliant speech. The federal Liberals decided to sit this demo out. They undoubtedly have more pressing matters at hand such as slandering Venezuela, supporting apartheid Israel, and deflecting whatever the PM’s latest embarrassment is.
This step taken by the tenants is very meaningful. In a building where almost %100 of tenants are on government assistance, and %80 have addiction and/or mental health issues, reaching out to a reformist organization for help is a big step in the right direction. Some of these tenants may even find the strength to try and drag themselves out of the pit of drugs, alcohol, disability cheques, and pest-infested housing that they are stuck in. If they do, they will immediately come up against Toronto’s brutal capitalist housing market.
Toronto’s housing market is designed to keep houses and condo’s vacant while people live on the streets or in rat-holes like 279 Woodfield, so that property values for investor-owners can be kept high. Fixing that problem will require political struggle. The only two ways out of Toronto’s housing crisis are through expropriation of the existing housing stock, or through a massive public construction project of tens of thousands of units of high quality affordable housing. Should any level of government decide to take the latter route, they can look south to Venezuela for a road map of just how it’s done. Venezuela has constructed 2.5 MILLION UNITS of good quality public housing over the last decade.
A world with decent housing for all is possible. Working class political struggle and revolution is the way forward for the homeless and underhoused.