Feature Interviews: Voices of the East Hamilton Rent Strike

Updated: Sep 7, 2018

Hamilton Tenant: Volume 1, Issue 1

Jolly Augusthy, Sareth Var, and Linda Habibi are members of the Stoney Creek Towers Tenant Committee and organizers in their buildings. As rent strike captains, they have spent many hours talking with their neighbours about working together to fight back against their landlord – knocking on doors, making phone calls, handing out flyers, attending weekly lobby meetings, etc. Jolly has lived at 40 Grandville Avenue for four years. Sareth has lived at 50 Violet Drive for ten years. Linda has lived at 77 Delawana Drive for one and half years.

Hamilton Tenant: Why did you decide to join the rent strike?

Jolly: I thought it is a good idea to be together with other tenants and respond to the landlord’s misbehaviours because they are not showing respect to the tenants and they are harassing them sometimes. They are not taking care of the repairs properly and they made the Above Guideline Increase very high, so we have to respond to it. So that’s why I decided to join the rent strike, to respond to the landlord’s actions.

Sareth: The landlord wants 4.8% [total rent increase for 2018] but the guideline is only 1.8% [2018 annual rent increase guideline set by the Province of Ontario] so that’s different. That’s why we are not happy to pay more than the guideline increase. We have to rent strike to the end.

Linda: I’m on rent strike to help the ‘legacy’ tenants fight the Above Guideline rent Increase, which I now realize I’m going to probably get as well in the next couple of years, so we need to stop that from happening. We need to control rent everywhere, actually, not just here. This is part of something bigger.

Jolly with her children, Noel and Annmaria, in their apartment.

Hamilton Tenant: Why do you think it’s important that more neighbours join the tenant committee?

Jolly: If more people come on board to support the rent strike, that makes us more strong and helps us to win. Because then the landlord recognizes that “Oh, tenants are all together fighting to us.” They will feel bad about it, but we feel really great about it! So we have to work on that and make the people come on board, that is why.

Sareth: Yes, it’s very important for neighbours to join with us, for tenants to join together for the rent strike. The neighbour must join with us because not for me, not for you, but for to keep the law for our children and for the next generation, that’s very important.

Linda: First of all, there’s a great sense of community here. Within four months of living here, I had an issue with CLV already. I was a brand new tenant. One of my daughters said, “Why don’t you just move?” and I said, “I can’t. I already know so many of my neighbours and I’ve only been here a few months, and I really like it here because there really is a sense of community.” The more people who join the tenant committee and come out to the meetings, the more they’ll get the sense that this really is a community. That’s the most important thing because in that way we can all help each other – whether it’s helping someone from their car with their groceries, opening the door for someone who’s pushing a stroller, or whatever. When you get to know people then those things just happen naturally.

In terms of the rent increase, this is something that matters for everybody. If new tenants think, like I did, that it isn’t going to affect them, they’re wrong. It will affect them. And it doesn’t matter if they stay here or move somewhere else because the exact same thing is going to happen. All you have to do is look at rent prices in the city: they’ve gone up exponentially. They haven’t gone up by a little bit, they’ve gone up by a lot. Everywhere. So, imagine, if we had every single unit on rent strike, do you not think that CLV would have already spoken to us? They would have gone, “Whoa, that’s over half a million dollars in one month of no money coming in!” They would have sat down and talked to us. So, if everyone had joined the rent strike right from the beginning, this would already have been over. But it’s not too late. It’s never too late! Until we have them at the table, it’s never too late! You can still join in September, you can still come out to the rallies, you can still support the Rent Strike Defense Fund. There’s so many ways to support.

Sareth outside his apartment building.

Hamilton Tenant: Why is it important for you to stay in this neighbourhood?

Jolly: Because this is a very good and very nice neighbourhood to live. Quiet place, and the location is very great to access everything, like groceries or mall and everything. The neighbourhood is for a long time a very good neighbourhood so that’s why I would like to stay. And we were actually working for the [HSR] bus to come to the Riverdale neighbourhood. It’s a success now so which is really important to stay for the neighbourhood because I worked for that, and I’m excited to work for this too.

Sareth: For me, I stand for the rent strike because I like to stand for the social community, because I know a lot of people here have low income. That’s why I want to help with the community. I love the community. My neighbours, tenants, yeah I like all of them. That’s why I need all of the four buildings of tenants to join together. Don’t be scared of the landlord because the landlord can’t do nothing to the tenants.

Linda: I know everybody. I like everybody. I go out at night for a walk with my dog and I feel safe. You know, it’s funny, I’ve lived in a lot of places, and this is truly the first place that I feel at home.

Linda outside her apartment building.