By Mike Anderson
Mary spent many sleepless nights after she received a legal notice from her landlord, Housing York Inc., that her rent was in arrears and if she didn’t pay up she could be evicted.
“I just want the whole thing cleared up and out of my head. It’s been stressful,” said Mary, who admits she has no place to go if she’s evicted.
“I’ll grab a couple blankets, and go live in the bush,” she said.
The legal notice, called an N4 (Notice to End Your Tenancy for Non-Payment of Rent) said Mary owed $870 in rent arrears, having missed a $535 rent payment in September, and owed another $335 from April to August.
It gave her a deadline of October 6, referred to as the termination date, to pay the rent arrears.
According to the notice, if Mary missed the deadline, Housing York Inc. would file an eviction notice with the Landlord and Tenant Board and she would have to pay not only the rent arrears but also the landlord’s filing fee to avoid being evicted.
According to Christine Morrison, a York Region spokesperson, a total of 200 households in HYI buildings were issued N4 notices in 2021. That’s just over 7 per cent of the total of 2,762 households. However, she said only three evictions were enforced.
Mary, 80, who has lived in a subsidized seniors building in Sutton for 24 years, says she has never had a problem paying rent.
However, she admits her costs have being going up. Lately, she has been paying more for food, prescription drugs and vet bills for her cat.
Mary receives a widows’ pension through CPP, as well as OAS, which amounts to about $1,880 a month — just above the poverty line in Ontario ($19,930 annually for an individual).
But she has no savings, so she wasn’t able to pay the rent arrears and missed the deadline.
Morrison would not confirm whether Housing York Inc. has applied to the Board to schedule a hearing.
However, she did say that Housing York will work with a resident to develop a payment plan to help them catch up on unpaid rent.
“As a responsible landlord, HYI will work with any residents in arrears to establish manageable repayment plans,” she said.
“By helping residents having trouble making rent payments catch up, HYI can help prevent evictions. The best outcome is one that keeps residents in their homes.”
While Christina Bonham, the building’s property manager, did speak with Mary about a repayment plan, Mary says the phone conversation did not go well. Bonham dismissed her suggestion to increase her rent by $50 per month to clear the $870 she owed.
“She said it wasn’t enough, and it would take too long to clear it,” Mary said. “She was also kind of snappy on the phone with me.”
Still, Bonham did refer Mary to the Salvation Army, which has partnered with York Region to deliver a program that helps tenants with rent arrears.
The program is called the Homelessness Prevention Program, and so far this year it’s helped more than 259 families avoid eviction, and paid out more than $700,000 in rent arrears, as well as assistance with mortgage and utility payments.
According to Captain Fred Reid, head pastor at the Salvation Army’s Northridge Community Church in Aurora, the program was developed a few years ago in response to the housing crisis.
“In recent years the cost of accommodation has just exploded. Housing is a huge concern in the Region, especially for those who are on low or fixed income,” he said.
“We work to help basically keep people in their homes. It’s to everyone’s benefit, especially the client, to stay where they are.”
“We pay their arrears, so they get a fresh start. And then there’s some follow up planning to ensure there’s some sustainability and some assistance.”
That follow-up may include case management and counselling, especially around budgeting.
“We call it a pathway of hope. The idea that it’s not just a handout. There’s an opportunity to start fresh, but then to provide some social support, some planning, some budgeting assistance, whatever is need to prevent this from happening again.”
But Reid admits the program has limited funding, about $1 million a year, and eligibility requirements. So, it can only help about 300 families a year.
Still, he believes the program is meeting a real need, and without it there would be more evictions.
“It would be a huge concern. There would be a volume of people who would be without a home. And it would be eviction of the most vulnerable populations, like seniors, on a fixed income, or those who are struggling with unemployment, or with medical health, those on disability pension, those kinds of things,” he said.
For Mary, being accepted into the program not only means a fresh start, its given her peace of mind.
“I can finally get a good night sleep,” she said.
For more information and how to apply to the program visit, www.northridgesa.com.
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