March 31st, 2020

Local tenants organizing rent strike

By JEREMY APPEL on March 26, 2020.

Local renters are organizing a rent strike. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/file photo)

jappel@medicinehatnews.com@MHNJeremyAppel

A group of local tenants are organizing a rent strike for April 1, with the aim of achieving a moratorium on evictions.

Dustin, whose last name we are withholding to avoid any potential retribution from his landlord, is one of the event’s three organizers.

He says they’re encouraging tenants to forego their upcoming rent, because the burden for managing the COVID-19 crisis shouldn’t fall on working people, who are less able to weather the storm than property owners.

“Businesses are going to get bailouts, banks are going to get bailouts. Tenants aren’t. Mortgage holders get deferrals and, in the end, it’s always going to be the people at the bottom who pay the most, because they can’t pay,” said Dustin.

Organizers have been promoting their initiative through a Facebook event, among other online avenues, but Dustin says its sponsored post was removed Tuesday, the same day it went up, because Facebook deemed it a political ad, which it recently banned.

He said their goal is to have enough people refusing to pay their rent “to clog up the local systems.”

“If someone gets an eviction notice, we’re planning on following up on it however we can,” said Dustin.

Although he appreciates the federal government offering support for those out of work, he questions whether that money will get to tenants on time and whether it will be enough in the long term.

“It’s too little too late,” Dustin said. “People have rent coming out in a week.”

These concerns were echoed by Conservative Sen. Don Plett, who reportedly criticized the Liberal government’s $82-billion aid package unveiled Wednesday as insufficient, since it consists of various one-time measures that could prove inadequate as a form of financial support, although he ultimately voted for it.

Dustin also criticized Premier Jason Kenney’s remarks Monday that the province won’t be halting evictions at this time, because many people who were behind on their rents prior to the COVID crisis “have been engaged in criminal activity or vandalism or operating grow-ops.”

“It’s possibly true for what’s in the system now, but what’s going to happen in a week-and-a-half, two weeks?” said Dustin. “How long is this going to go on and how many people are going to be evicted because of this?”

He says this is about more than his own personal finances.

“Maybe I can pay my rent, but other people can’t,” said Dustin. “Instant barring of evictions is the bare minimum during this crisis. Whether it’s related to non-payment or not, nobody should be evicted during this time.”

Anyone who sees their rent go up, or receives an eviction notice is encouraged to visit https://www.medhatra.ca/

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