Longtime renters in Midtown Toronto fear proposed condos will force them out of their neighborhoods

According to Megan Kee, the building is home to many seniors and low-income renters who simply cannot afford to move when the building at 55 Brownlow Ave.  will be demolished.  (Mike Smee/CBC - photo credit)

According to Megan Kee, the building is home to many seniors and low-income renters who simply cannot afford to move when the building at 55 Brownlow Ave. will be demolished. (Mike Smee/CBC – photo credit)

More than 120 tenants in a Midtown apartment building fear eviction if the city approves a new planning application in one of Toronto’s most desirable neighborhoods.

They reside at 55 Brownlow Ave., a mid-rise building just one block west of Mount Pleasant Road and Eglinton Avenue East, which is undergoing redevelopment. That means they’ll have to move once the developer’s application is approved, likely within the next few years.

“Some of the tenants have lived in this building for over 50 years, and a lot of those people are [on] fixed incomes,” said Megan Kee, a tenant who helps organize the residents.

“They’re on low incomes, they’re young families, they’re seniors and they can’t afford to go anywhere else.”

The Yonge-Eglinton area has been identified by the province as ripe for additional housing due to its proximity to through traffic. The developer Menkes submitted the application for reallocation in 2021. It envisages the lots from 55 to 75 Brownlow being demolished and replaced with three condominium towers of 45, 40 and 35 stories.

Mike Smee/CBC News

Mike Smee/CBC News

The developer says in its application to the city that all 121 rental units at 55 Brownlow will be replaced within the new complex. CBC Toronto offered Menkes the opportunity to comment on this story. The company has not yet responded.

count. Josh Matlow, who developed the neighborhood as part of Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul’s said the city ordinance granting current tenants a first right of refusal on these new units at rents comparable to what they are paying now.

Matlow said during the crisis, to find more housing for more people, the province has declared the Yonge-Eglinton neighborhood, with its easy access to public transportation, an “urban growth hub,” meaning the city is expected to adjust its zoning rules, to allow more new residents. And that means more new housing developments.

He said he accepts the need for growth in the region. However, he warned that current residents should not be pushed out of their neighborhoods.

“The reality is the need to ensure that people’s quality of life keeps pace with this growth,” Matlow said.

City of Toronto

City of Toronto

Matlow, who said it will likely be a few years before demolition occurs at 55 Brownlow, also pointed out that the city has regulations that force developers to replace any rental units they demolish, assuming the old one Building contains at least six units.

“We’ve negotiated some very, very good deals for the tenants,” Matlow said. “We have to be focused [tenants’] Ability to live in their own neighborhood.”

But not all Brownlow residents believe in the idea of ​​being offered new units on the same street at comparable rents.

Wanda Barrett has had a one-bedroom unit in the building for eight and a half years. Her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter are also tenants.

Mike Smee/CBC

Mike Smee/CBC

“It’s not just the money, it would divide my family,” she said. “It was very stressful for all of us.”

She also said she was skeptical of the developer’s promise to offer them all replacement units in the new building.

“I find it hard to believe that the developers could find us two apartments in the same building, or if they care enough,” she said.

“And what happens 10 years from now when I’m 85 and they want to kick me out because of the higher rent? It’s just very stressful. I’m worried,” she said.

“I’m losing sleep over it.”

Her daughter, Gala Barrett, a registered nurse, says she’s also concerned about moving from an affordable unit in today’s market.

“I can no longer afford to live in this community if this building goes away.”

As for the city and the developer’s claim that they can move back into the new complex?

“It’s great in theory. Are you true to your word? It’s 100 percent a matter of trust,” she said.

“Who will stand up for us?”

Not ‘NIMBYism’

Kee, a tenant in the building for seven years, said the residents’ goal is to stop the demolition of 55 Brownlow and get developers to redesign plans for the rest of the site around it.

She said residents have no “not-in-my-backyard” or NIMBY attitudes toward greater density in their neighborhoods.

“From my point of view, it’s a very different situation than NIMBYism,” she said.

“These are these people’s houses. If you don’t have a home, everything else in your life falls apart.”

Geoff Hayworth of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations helped organize the Brownlow tenants. He says his organization has seen more and more viable rental buildings being bulldozed in favor of condos.

“Actually, it’s becoming quite common,” he said.

“It happens regularly in Toronto these days. There are many buildings in reasonable condition that are being demolished for a quick buck.”


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