FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Displacement realty is the business of selling properties that have served as poor and low-income peoples’ homes, for inflated prices, based on the potential rental income those properties could earn if they were housing wealthier people paying higher rents.
It locks buyers – who usually buy these properties as investments – into pushing existing tenants out, in order to pay off loans and turn a profit. It means individual people lose their homes and as neighbourhoods as a whole become unaffordable, those same people can no longer afford to live in their communities and are pushed out to more distant suburbs, without access to the same services.
The consequences of these evictions can be literally life and death for folks who rely on their neighbours, friends, doctors and social workers to get by.
HOW MANY AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS IN PARKDALE HAS NICK BREWERTON SOLD?
While many of his sales happen as private transactions and are not listed, members of Parkdale’s communities have identified at least 10 addresses in the neighbourhood, with over 180 units of affordable units sold in the process. Many of these sales have seen evictions or buy outs, followed by massive rent increases. More information can be found in The Nick Brewerton Report.
According to the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust’s (PNLT) 2017 rooming house report, rooming houses and bachelorettes provide twice as many low-income homes in Parkdale as the Toronto Community Housing Corporation does. Unlike with public housing, there is very little regulation on the loss of rooming house units, meaning that real estate agents like Nick Brewerton can help aging Parkdale landlords to sell their buildings at speculative prices – prices based on their potential future profit the buildings could earn in an ‘up and coming’ neighbourhood, rather than the rates that their current tenants’ rents would justify.
The PNLT report says that Parkdale had 198 rooming houses in 2017, housing 2715 people. At the time of their research, 28 rooming houses had been sold in the previous decade, de-housing 347 people. They estimate that 59 of the 198 existing buildings were at risk of selling at the time of publication, putting 818 more low-income residents’ housing in jeopardy.
Nick Brewerton has already been responsible for the selling of at least 180 affordable units in the neighbourhood and currently represents several Parkdale landlords who may be selling more of their properties in the coming years.
Many of Parkdale’s rooming houses have been run by a small number of aging landlords for decades. Several of those landlords are getting old and wanting to sell their property empires now, and realtors like Nick Brewerton are helping them do so in a way that forces their existing tenants out, to make way for middle-class professionals who can afford higher rents.
Gradually, this means there is nowhere for existing tenants to go in Parkdale and those of us who have made Parkdale our homes are forced to move out, losing access to friends, communities and social services in the process. The neighbourhood becomes whiter and wealthier and the communities that have shaped it for so many decades are dispersed to wherever rent is still cheap.
There are a few basic steps you can take if you see Nick Brewerton or other real estate agents in your building:
- Do not give him (or your landlord) access to view your room or apartment, without the 24hrs notice legally required.
- Record any conversations with Nick or your landlord with your phone.
- Put a ‘Nick-Free Zone/No entry without 24 hours’ notice’ poster on your door or in your front window (from the website).
Read more about what you can do as a tenant to prevent building sales and protect your homes here.
Gentrification is incredibly complex. It is the results of several layers of government policies, government inactions, global market pressures and countless individual choices about where to live and how to spend money. Nick Brewerton is far from the only force at work in making Parkdale unaffordable, but he is a significant player who is profiting more than most from the displacement of low-income communities in the neighbourhood. Stopping Nick Brewerton from selling rooming houses will not stop gentrification in Parkdale, but if we can make him take his business out of Parkdale, we can send a strong message to others that are trying to make money by pushing us out, that we will not let them do so, while encouraging other communities facing similar threats to do the same.
As far as we know, displacement realty doesn’t break any laws in Toronto. But staying within the existing letter of the law is not good enough. Many deeply unethical practices have been carried out ‘within the law’ throughout history, from slavery to domestic violence, and we feel selling people’s homes out from under them needs to be held to a higher standard until the law catches up.
In practice, when we see Nick sell a building, we usually see existing tenants leaving or getting forced out and prices going up. This makes it harder and harder for many of us to stay in the neighbourhood after we’ve been pushed out of somewhere affordable. Being pushed out of our homes AND our communities can be questions of survival for many.
Nick Brewerton (and the investor landlords that he works with) need to take responsibility for their role in this situation, even if they are not breaking any laws.
In the short term, it’s up to us to make it as difficult as possible for Nick and displacement realtors like him to sell affordable housing. We can make sure he and our landlords actually follow the laws, rather than walking into our homes without notice to show them off to potential buyers. We can communicate with fellow tenants to resist evictions and buy-out offers. We can also send a clear message to prospective owners that we know our rights, are organized and won’t be pushed out of our homes and communities, making our buildings look like much riskier investments.
In the medium term, we can push our elected representative to pass laws that stop landlords from being able to jack rents up as much as they’d like, once a unit is vacant. If landlords weren’t allowed to turn a $700/month unit into a $1700/month unit as soon as the existing tenant leaves, it would remove the main financial incentive for new investor owners and for real estate agents like Nick Brewerton, to sell rooming houses for much more than they are worth, and to push people out of them.
We also need to create alternative ways of holding onto affordable properties and keeping rents down. There are various forms of non-profit, public and cooperative housing that could contribute to these models, but the money needed to actually buy properties is a major block without significant government support and commitment.
As tenants in Parkdale rental housing – some of us in buildings sold by Nick Brewerton directly – we have experienced the realities of living with both old school slumlords and new investor owners and their property managers. We have felt the impacts of speaking up, raising awareness and getting organized. Many of Nick Brewerton’s clients – both buyers and sellers, and their representatives – have used harassment, neglect, intimidation and physical force to try to prevent or undermine organizing in the neighbourhood. In order to protect ourselves, we have chosen to remain anonymous.
Nick – we are Parkdale and we are not going to let you sell off our homes and our communities. Please take this campaign as a formal notice that we want you to take your business out of Parkdale and any other community in which your sales involve forcing poor and low-income folks out of our homes. As long as you continue to sell low-income housing in Parkdale, we will be here and we will do everything we can to make it harder for you to do so.