The Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network presents
BUILDING TOGETHER: A CONFERENCE FOR AND BY RENTERS
SATURDAY APRIL 29, 2017 ~ 9:30 – 6:00
@ THE PERKINS CENTRE; 1429 MAIN STREET EAST (AT KENILWORTH)
This event is broken into three streams: one full-day training session, and two streams of one-hour long workshops beginning at 10:30, 12:00, 2:00 and 3:30, with an open tenants assembly to follow at 4:30.
Doors open at 9:30 for coffee and light breakfast; Lunch at 1:00
This is a free, fully wheel-chair accessible event. If you plan on attending, please fill out our online registration form and be sure and let us know if you have any other accessibility requests.
FULL WORKSHOP SCHEDULE:
9:30-10:30 – Breakfast, Coffee and Registration
TENANT ORGANIZING 101: FULL DAY TRAINING STREAM
This full-day tenant organizing stream will help provide you with the knowledge, skills and practical resources you need to organize successfully in your building, and in your neighbourhood. Topics covered will include: understanding the housing market, reasons for organizing with your neighbours, organizing principles, how to get started, basic tenant rights, navigating the landlord & tenant board, documenting your issues, coming up with a campaign, how to research your landlord and when and how to escalate tactics.
Participants will be given a kit in order to help them in future organizing, and so in order to make sure we’re properly prepared, we please ask that people planning on attending this training session register in advance.
Cole is a Community Legal Worker at the Parkdale Legal Clinic in Toronto and a member of the Parkdale Organize neighbourhood group.
Denise is a renter and tenant activist in the Davis Creek neighbourhood of Hamilton, and the former president of Tenants at Tindale.
Alex is a renter and an organizer with the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network.
10:30 – 11:30
THE STATE OF THE STOCK
An overview of the current housing situation in Hamilton, including a look at the apparent contradiction of long term vacancies in a period of high demand, and the barely stabilizing effect of rent controls.
Sara Mayo is a Social Planner at the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton. Sara tries to make complex data and issues more accessible to the community through reports and maps, on issues such as housing, poverty and employment.
RECLAIMING AFFORDABLE HOUSING
A number of affordable housing models exist. Hamilton has already experienced two periods of major immigration and it stands at the threshold of another. In 1950, 40-50% of the housing in Hamilton had been built by its owners. By 2000 this was less than 2%. In between, Hamilton experienced the Federal DVA Housing Programme in which many Veterans of WWII built their own “Wartime Homes” as a way of getting back into the housing economy. Throughout, owning and renting have been intimately linked. What are the new approaches to the design of affordable multi-residential housing? How will they address the projected increase of Hamilton’s population from 530,000 residents today, to 780,000 residents by 2041, with 60-80% of the growth expected to come from immigration? How could genuine, meaningful community engagement take place, as distinct from the top-down tokenism common in municipal planning today?
John van Nostrand is an architect and urban planner who studies the historical processes by which Canadian cities have been shaped. He has been conducting a detailed examination of the historic, present and future patterns of land development in Hamilton over the past year, particularly in the North End/West Harbour area. John is the Founding Principal of SvN Architects + Planners and has worked on projects throughout Southern Ontario, elsewhere in Canada, and in Africa and Latin America. He is also the Director of JvND Developments Inc.
12:00 – 1:00
CONFRONTING DIVISIONS IN TENANT ORGANIZING
From politicians and bosses to landlords and property managers, it’s common for those who have power to use a “divide and conquer” strategy to maintain their position. A divided population is easier to exploit and control, and so, those in power purposely play up the things that separate us, and downplay the things we have in common. This helps direct our frustrations and hostilities horizontally, rather than vertically. In our local context, rising rents and the growing threat of displacement has created a climate in Hamilton where tenants are fed-up and looking for someone to blame. This sentiment is legitimate. Far too often, however, we channel this anger towards the wrong targets. For example, rather than blaming opportunistic landlords and developers, and politicians at multiple levels of government, some have instead attempted to lay the blame for the city’s tightening housing market on Syrian refugees escaping the traumas of war.
This session will discuss how social divisions based on things like race, gender, sexuality, and ability, distract us from our real enemies and make it more difficult to organize effectively with our neighbours. It will map out strategies for overcoming divisions between tenants and present practical tools for countering racism, sexism, and other forms of exclusion at both the individual and collective level in order to build a force capable of challenging gentrification and taking control of our neighbourhoods.
Scott is a long-time renter in Hamilton and an organizer with the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network.
Tammy is a renter who lives in downtown Hamilton. A member of the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network, she is everyday enraged by the ongoing gentrification of the city, and believes in the power of organized communities rather than politicians to take action and make change.
PARKDALE VS METCAP
For weeks now, tenants in Parkdale, Toronto have been organizing a multi-building campaign against their neighbourhood’s biggest landlord: Metcap Living. This organizing will come to fruition on May 1st, as tenants prepare to launch a neighbourhood rent strike to demand Metcap withdraw five current applications for Above Guideline Rent Increases (AGIs). Metcap is trying to significantly raise their tenants’ rent, following some minor cosmetic changes to building facades… and years of neglect. These rent hikes are widely seen as part of a larger strategy to displace long-standing and low-income residents and further gentrify the neighbourhood. In the face of this threat, tenants are taking a bold collective stand to send a strong message that they won’t be pushed or priced out of Parkdale.
Bryan & Aly are renters and members of Parkdale Organize, a group of neighbours that’s been involved in helping to organize for the May 1st rent strike.
1:00 – 2:00 – Lunch! (Please register to let us know of any allergies/dietary restrictions)
2:00 – 3:00
INCLUSION TALK IN THE HOUSING SECTOR
Promises of greater “ inclusion” are routinely rolled out when conflict produces demands for change which challenge the legitimacy of current economic and political structures. How does this unfold in the housing sector?
The City of Hamilton and other organizations that operate rent geared to income and subsidized housing are without the means to maintain the existing stock. One response has been proposals to sell the land under the housing and use the proceeds to rebuild within the context of larger market rate redevelopment – on the model of Toronto’s Don Mount and Regent Park schemes, with a promise to ensure social inclusion in the new developments. Has this worked?
At present, nothing is proposed to make affordable housing, owned or rental, available for lower and middle income residents. Here again, provincially mandated “inclusionary zoning” is awaited.
Moreover, most of the new market rate housing planned for the central city is one bedroom units. In the absence of a City policy requiring some proportion of two and three bedroom units in new builds, there will be little family accommodation in the downtown.
How can we achieve a diversity of housing options and pricing in central Hamilton?
Shawn Selway is a Stelco-trained industrial mechanic, consultant in historic machinery conservation, and writer who participates as a citizen in the endless stream of City planning exercises in the North End where he lives.
USE IT OR LOSE IT: SQUATTING AS A RESPONSE TO HOUSING CRISES
Cities often contain sizable numbers of people without homes, and homes without people. In many parts of the world, people have attempted to fix this imbalance through squatting. A number of countries in Europe have organized squatters movements, which have existed in various forms for decades. In other parts of the world, land occupations and informal housing developments are make-shift solutions for many people who cannot afford to live in the cities. This workshop will go over squatting as a broad practice that includes people who do it out of necessity, and those who do it as an overtly political act.
Jonathan B is a Hamilton renter who spent over a dozen years in the UK and Greek squatter movements.
3:30 – 4:30
LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT: A THIRD VOICE
The development of Light Rail Transit (LRT), if it happens, will radically change the face of Hamilton. Debates around the merits of the project have centered around pro-business criteria of economic growth and tax levels. The impacts on poor and working class Hamiltonians – especially tenants – are seldom mentioned. LRT promises to accelerate the gentrification and displacement happening in the lower city. This workshop will examine the probable effects of LRT on specific low income neighbourhoods and propose a strategy for tenant organizing to mitigate the effects of LRT and ensure that working-class people reap the fruits of infrastructure improvements.
Campbell is a renter, and an organizer with the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network.
RIGHT TO THE CITY
Best known for the phrase “Right to the City” Henri Lefebvre began to talk about global urbanization in the wake of the French uprising of 1968. As Lefebvre saw it, the industrial revolution which drove urbanization was being overtaken by urbanization itself, which has become both a means and an end.
Lefebvre’s notion of the “Right to the City” was not principally about the right to live in the city or some particular space within it, but the right to participate fully in city life and to shape everyday spaces around you. Hard to do where inequality is rife and property considerations dominate social relations and how people treat one another. One of the results is that expert-driven processes lead to an almost automated production of space: the same ideas, designs, and features regardless of local needs and history.
This conceived space of planners, architects, academics, and other experts is continually imposed on the city to reconfigure or remake it to be more productive and efficient according to current ideas. Those whose space is being remade often resist.
This workshop will discuss how this plays out at the local level here in Hamilton, with examples including the Pupil Accommodation Review process by which school closures/rebuilds are determined, and the campaign by the owners of the Robert Village apartment complex to subdivide a large number of the units in those buildings.
Rob Fiedler is a transplant to Hamilton from Vancouver via Toronto, who lives in the North End with his spouse and their daughter. As a geographer his principal focus of study has been post-war metropolitanization, suburban transformation, and (sub)urban revitalization. He is a past president of the North End Neighbours (NEN).
4:30 – 6:00 – CLOSING TENANTS ASSEMBLY
This final session will bring together all conference attendees for a participant-driven tenant assembly. In order to help ground the issues discussed in the day’s earlier workshops and apply them to people’s real lives, the assembly will provide a space to share our experiences as tenants from across Hamilton, discuss the problems we face, and start to come up with plans for collective action. As part of large general discussions and smaller breakout group conversations, participants will be encouraged to brainstorm and strategize next steps for tenant organizing in Hamilton. Specifically, tenants will be asked to think about and propose priorities for the rest of 2017 and looking ahead to 2018 in relation to three areas of struggle – at the building level, the neighbourhood level, and the city level. Based on these discussions, the assembly will collectively decide on and set a list of priorities for the coming year.