Decades in the same home can leave behind a lot of memories. For this reason, it’s not surprising that Darlene Pollard, 71, broke down in tears as she began to recount how she is being told to leave her apartment of 20 years.
Pollard is one of the tenants of an 11-unit apartment building located at 602 Cook Street. She spoke at a press conference hosted by the Yukon NDP on Aug. 25. Reporters were told that all of the building’s tenants had been served eviction notices by the new landlord at the start of this month.
“I have lived in this current apartment building for two decades, and I was given two months to pack up 20 years of my life,” Pollard said.
“Landlords are able to use that two-month notice to end tenancy to get around the rent cap and they’re able to retaliate against tenants that push back on rent increases by ending their tenancy. Tenants need to have a voice in matters that concern their protection, well being and certainty in their living situation,” Pollard said.
Pollard doesn’t know when she’ll find another place she can afford after she leaves her apartment on Sept. 30. Until then, she will be living in a room at her daughter’s house. Pollard said even if she does find a place to rent, there is no assurance things will be any better or more stable under a new landlord.
NDP MLA for Whitehorse Centre Emily Tredger called the Cook Street evictions an appalling example of the current government’s failure to protect tenants.
“They aren’t numbers on a balance sheet. They aren’t a business decision. They aren’t a number on a waitlist. They are real people who have lost their homes, real people who are now struggling to find a new place to live,” Tredger said.
“When the Liberals came into power six years ago, they knew that tenants were getting evicted without cause. We’ve been fighting to change that for years, but they chose to do nothing.”
Tredger said the Cook Street property is the third downtown Whitehorse building to have its tenants evicted without cause. All three of those mass evictions have taken place over the last 11 months.
She added that the NDP isn’t the only group calling for relief for renters, citing a petition circulated by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition and calls to action from Safe at Home that both seek an end to no-cause evictions in the Yukon.
She added that the state of things in the Yukon is not normal when compared to the rest of Canada, as only Newfoundland and Labrador and the Yukon allow no-cause evictions.
Another tenant of the Cook Street building, 68-year-old Richard Lawrence, also spoke at the Aug. 25 gathering. Lawrence said he doesn’t consider speaking up against the no-cause evictions a political statement, but rather a moral and ethical stand.
Lawrence said the past landlords of the building, where he has lived for 10 years, were fair and good to deal with. He said their sale of the building to new owners preceded the eviction notices.
He thinks there are people who care in all the Yukon’s political parties, but he doesn’t understand the inaction on no-cause evictions.
Lawrence said his eviction will result in increased revenue for the new landlord. His own two-bedroom apartment will now rent for $1,700 per month, up from the $1,080 per month he had been paying; he added that at least one of the one-bedroom units rented by a longtime tenant will be going up from $1,000 to $1,500 per month when the new tenants move in.
Lawrence called the new landlord’s expression of regret over the evictions “crocodile tears” and landlords’ assertions that they were driven to evict tenants by the government’s rent increase cap a myth and a lie.
“I don’t really know whether I buy that. I mean, if I were interested in buying the building for $2 million, or whatever, I think I’d check to see what the repercussions would be about, you know, if I went to the bank and said, you know, I really want to buy this building and they say, well, first of all, you have to kick everybody out without reason, and then you have to raise the rent 50 per cent, I might have reservations,” he said.
Lawrence said he and his fellow tenants were never given a chance to sign a lease with the new landlord. They were only provided with a new address to send rent cheques, followed by the eviction notice and then notice they would show the apartment to new potential tenants on 24-hours notice.
Stats gleaned from an April 2022 rent survey conducted by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics show that the evictions come at a very challenging time for those seeking rental apartments.
The survey shows the vacancy rate in Whitehorse for buildings with three or more units is 0.8 per cent.
Of 1,063 units captured in the survey, only nine were vacant. This is the first time in a decade or longer that the vacancy rate for these types of properties has fallen below one per cent and the median monthly rent for these units has risen $80 in the past year alone.
Territory wide, the survey found no class of rental housing had a vacancy rate above 3.1 per cent. Most types were around 1 per cent vacant and garden suites and mobile homes surveyed had no vacancy at all.
Tredger said ending evictions without cause is a top priority for the NDP, but added that a tenant’s advocacy group would be a huge benefit to Yukoners.
“There’s a landlords’ association, but there’s no tenant’s association. They can go to the residential tenancy office, but they’re very neutral. They’re not there to advocate or support.”
Any actions or changes to the territory’s eviction rules, however soon they may come, are too late for Pollard, Lawrence and the other tenants facing eviction.
A call for comment to the new landlord of the Cook Street building was not returned by the News’ deadline.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org