By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Scarborough Community Council approved a rental housing demolition application for 1625-1641 Kingston Rd. and 52 Birchcliff Ave. on Friday, Jan. 27.
The application proposes to demolish Lenmore Court which is made up of 32 rental dwelling units at 1625, 1633 and 1641 Kingston Rd. and one rental unit at 52 Birchcliff Ave. — replacing them with two new buildings. The new buildings will range in heights up to nine storeys.
According to City of Toronto Senior Planner Graham Haines, the new building fronting Kingston Road will comprise of 237 units while there will be 33 rental units in a separate four-storey building facing Birchcliff Ave. to replace the demolished rentals that are currently at the site.
At the meeting were community members and tenants including Birch Cliff Village Community Association founder, Anna Dewar Gully, who spoke out against the demolition.
“As a citizen I want to draw your attention as councillors to the ludicrously high volume of demolitions of affordable housing that are happening in my community and, I’m sure, all over the city,” said Gully.
She urged councillors to defer their decision until the application’s developer, Altree, shows more transparency in regards to compensation.
Gully, who was representing tenants of the 33 rental units, told councillors that the process had been “appallingly inequitable” for tenants and tilted towards the interests of the developers.
Tenants asked for specific details about the safeguarding of affordable rents as well as mental health care compensation for therapeutic support after being put through what they describe as a “ridiculous ordeal”.
Providing mental health support for tenants of a building to be demoished is not mandated and developers have no obligation to do so.
However, Louis Tinker, Altree’s Planning Consultant, told the Scarborough councillors that during their last consultation with tenants, his clients pledged to compensate the equivalent of three months rent, provide them with $1,500 moving expenses, assured them of their rights to move back into the new building at “similar” rental rates of the demolished units, as well as a rental gap payment.
“So, for example, if [the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation] reported vacant rents of $1,700 for a one-bedroom unit and you [previously] rented a one-bedroom unit for $1000, your rent gap is $700.”
Tinker explained that the $700 is then multiplied by the length of time the tenant is expected to be displaced and then issued to them up front. In this case, construction of the new rental units is expected to take 30 months according to Altree.
In an event where development takes longer than anticipated, tenants are expected to be further compensated, although, at that point many of them believe they would have moved on to find other permanent residences.
At the meeting, tenants depicted distrust of the developer as they requested confirmation of the rental gap plan in writing as public record so as to ensure that their needs aren’t neglected in the future.
“With regard to the rental relocation assistance plan, I think as a city we went well beyond what provincial rules and regulation talks about,” said Scarborough Southwest Councillor Gary Crawford, who represents the Birch Cliff area. “The package that was negotiated I think was fair.”
Although Crawford approved of the compensation plan which ensures that tenants are relocated and do not have to pay for anything out of pocket, he voted against the demolition application. Crawford was the only councillor to vote against. Beach Metro Community News reached out to understand this decision but has not yet received a response.
Voting in favour of the demolition application were Scarborough-Rouge Park Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, Scarborough Centre Councillor Michael Thompson, Scarborough North Councillor Jamaal Myers, Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor Nick Mantas, and Scarborough-Guildwood Councillor Paul Ainslie.
The application to develop at Lenmore Courts was presented to the city in October 2020.
Following public outcry about the building’s size – which led to the formation of the Birch Cliff Village Community Association, challenges mounted as the developer planned on relocating displaced tenants to another building outside the community.
“We fought that with the residents,” said Crawford. “Ideally you’re supposed to move people within their local community and two kilometres away wouldn’t be considered that.”
Altree obliged and will now be tasked with finding all the tenants replacement units within the community.
Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act requires developers to give tenants four months to move out, however, Lenmore Court tenants will have six months to prepare for their relocation due to Toronto’s low vacancy rates.
Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.