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Tenants at 71, 75, and 79 Thornecliffe Park Drive in Toronto have entered the fourth month of their rent strike against an Above Guideline Increase (AGI) by Starlight Investments and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP). The rent strike has increased to upwards of 100 tenants with ongoing traction. In response to the rent strike, the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB) approved of Starlight Investment's request to expedite the hearing for the AGI proposal.
Starlight Investments, whose only interaction with striking tenants was to send notices of eviction for non-payment, submitted a request to the LTB as their official response to the rent strike. Starlight cites the actions of striking tenants as "harassment" and "hateful". The request was endorsed by Egya Sangmuah, vice chair of the LTB, who stated that the request was "made in good faith".
"These are baseless and false claims" says Sameer, one of the striking tenants; "My understanding is that our tenant organizing have been effective in creating a pressure for Starlight, and Starlight chose to play the victim". Tenants were not consulted about Starlight's request for an early hearing, nor were they given the opportunity to address the accusations against them. The hearing will be held in a written format based on the arguments of the landlord and tenants.
Instead of recognizing that tenants have made a collective and organized protest against the AGI, the LTB has mandated that all tenants must submit their responses individually by September 15. Despite Sangmuah's letter of endorsement for Starlight's request being dated for June 23, tenants at Thornecliffe Park were not made aware about the decision until August 14.
By rubberstamping Starlight's request, "The LTB is setting a dangerous precedent that undermines tenant organizing in Ontario" says Philip Zigman, a tenant organizer with RenovictionsTO. RenovictionsTO, Zigman, and Cole Webber - another organizer - are named as "offenders" in Starlight's plea to the LTB.
Starlight justifies its application for an AGI by claiming capital expenditures in excess of $9.7 million dollars across the three buildings on Thornecliffe Park Drive. These capital expenditures were largely renovations in public and visible spaces in buildings, and did not address maintenance, utility, and health issues in units. "Starlight and the PSP is treating us as a means for profit making", says Sameer; "This is unethical and contradicts PSP's principle of responsible investing."
In addition to withholding rent, Thorncliffe Park tenants have also protested in front of Starlight's headquarters. The most recent protest was on August 1 at Bloor St. and Islington Ave.