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From the Z-files

Web posted on September 01, 2001

The Z-Files
A 21.6% cut, a 3.9% increase and another kick in the head for Guelph renters.

On Saturday, August 25, 2001, when we all thought Mike Harris and Chris Hodgson, Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, were at home pulling back another shot of "Poor Bashing" (a new beer that's being brewed in Toronto), we hear that the Ontario government is screwing those in need again.

We all remember, back in the fall of 1995, David Tsubouchi, then the Minister of Social Services, announced that he was cutting welfare cheques by 21.6%, and that welfare recipients could live on 69 cent cans of tuna. This, in my opinion, was the start of the new neo-conservative mantra, poor bash every time you get the chance but don't call it that, call it fiscal responsibility and everyone will buy into it.

Shortly afterwards, Al Leach, then the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced he was cutting Rent Control, the only salvation renters of this province had against unrealistic rent increases each year. Leach also announced, as stated in the Common Sense Revolution election document of 1994, that the government would "get out of social housing", another shot at those in the most need.

Now, as of the beginning of 2002, landlords will be able to increase rent by 3.9%, up from 2.9% this year, for no reason but to put more money in their pockets. Doesn't sound like much to those right-wing noodle heads out there, but for those living on fixed incomes, that's 3.9% less they'll have to spend on food for their children.

Let's look at it this way: if a single mother of two rents a two bedroom apartment in Guelph's south side, for $700.00, effective January 1, 2002, her rent will jump to $727.30. Imagine, if that mother currently works one full-time job at minimum wage ($6.85) that's $1,096.00 gross per month. After taxes she's probably looking at about $800.00. That will leave her with a measly $72.70 to pay for utilities, medical expenses, and food for herself and her two kids.

All this, while the waiting lists continue to increase at social housing and at housing help centres (like Fresh Start downtown). I think I heard recently that the average waiting time in Guelph for affordable housing is around 5 years right now. Toronto is much higher. Nope, we don't need any more social housing built in this province.

Picture that single mother, working the same job, getting the same pay. Under a fair system, like in non-profit and co-op housing, she would only pay $329.00 per month for rent (30% of her gross income). That would mean she would actually be able to have money to feed her kids properly, and have some disposable income to set aside in hopes of improving herself by going back to school.

But, alas, in Guelph, Ontario, if you are disadvantaged, you are forced to do without because you are a convenient excuse for the government, neo-conservatives, and armchair politicians. If there's a problem in the system, blame the poor.

With Rent Control Guidelines removed in this province, if a tenant were to move out of his unit, the landlord could raise the rent, for the new tenant, to whatever s/he wants, even without improving on the unit. Yep, that's fair.

In the end, with large waiting lists, continued rent increases, and unscrupulous landlords just out to make a buck, the government needs to re-establish government funded housing in this province.

Respectfully submitted by William Zebedee - Community Activist and social housing tenant for last 6 years.