Housing Insecurity for Black Renters: COVID‑19 and the Fight to Remain Housed

Lewis, Nemoy | $25,181

Ontario Ryerson University 2021 SSHRC

Since the start of the COVID‑19 pandemic, residential evictions have been on the rise across Ontario, especially in racialized communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the spread of the COVID‑19 virus. As the second wave of the COVID‑19 pandemic began, many tenants were still without work, and Ontario began an eviction blitz to remove a backlog of cases following the end of the eviction moratorium. There were nearly 12,000 eviction hearings over a two-month period in the fall of 2020, mainly for non-payment of rent. An analysis of the LTB dockets by community legal clinic, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO), revealed eviction applications were up nearly 45 percent in Toronto’s North region – an area of the city which is home to some of the highest concentration of Black renters. These eviction filings come as many working-class Black renters are left without the ability to make their monthly rental payments due to loss of income from job losses or reduced working hours because of COVID. The increased threat of evictions will lead vulnerable households to be pushed into a life of housing insecurity during a global health crisis, further exposing them to the risk of contracting or spreading the virus. Housing insecurity compounds profound racial inequalities in this moment, where Black and other racialized people have been disproportionately impacted by the current pandemic. The City of Toronto reported that Black and other racialized groups accounted for 83 percent of the reported COVID‑19 cases as of July 2020 despite accounting for half of the city’s population (Seucharan and Bascaramurty 2020). In fact, Black people had the highest share of COVID‑19 cases at 21 percent while only comprising of 9 percent of the total population. Community advocates and scholars alike argue that the financialization of rental market is helping to exacerbated the problems of evictions during the pandemic. Tenant activists argue the pandemic has created conditions for intensified evictions because financialized landlords have exploited the crisis so as to augment profits. Typically, financialized landlords generate profits by charging exorbitant rents and maintaining high occupancy levels. This means, financialized landlords act expeditiously to evict non-paying tenants in order to meet their investors interests.

This study contributes to and extends a growing body of scholarship on both the housing affordability and eviction crises by exploring financialized landlords and the broader consequences for Black tenants during the COVID‑19 pandemic in Toronto. Little research has been conducted that seeks to understand the lived experience of Black renters during the COVID‑19 health crisis. This study will be of interest to scholars and to the wider community, especially tenants residing in units owned by these entities, and community housing advocates who are increasingly dealing with the pressures associated with financialized landlords. Preliminary research has also revealed this study would be of broader interest to residents of cities impacted by the COVID‑19 pandemic given the wider translocal and transnational impacts of these financialized landlords on the livability of urban centers. There would be interests from city governments, specifically those involved in creating housing and health policies to ensure the safety of residents, especially vulnerable households during the current pandemic. This research will provide urban and health policymakers with vital information regarding the impacts of financialized landlords eviction practices during the COVID‑19 pandemic to ensure issues of tenant safety and security, especially for already marginalized communities, are a key priority with any policy decisions.

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