Ed Hughes on what used to be his front porch. After the building he lived in was sold earlier this year, Hughes accepted a buyout from the new owner and moved out so the building could be renovated. Now, Hughes is experiencing homelessness as he struggles to find a new apartment he can afford. (Photo: Brett Throop)
Brett Throop  - 
July 14, 2021

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Hi there, and welcome to the Peterborough Currents newsletter. My name is Brett Throop. I’m a freelance journalist and former CBC radio producer.

I fell in love with Peterborough — the river, the cycling trails, the people — as a Trent student.

But then life pulled me in other directions for almost a decade. Now, I’m back. It feels great to be part of this community again — and it’s a privilege to get to report on a place I care so much about for Peterborough Currents.

Last month, I wrote about pressures facing renters as properties get bought and sold in our region’s sizzling real estate market. I reported that soaring home values have been accompanied by a steep spike in N12 eviction applications in recent months. (N12 evictions occur when a landlord intends to move into a rental unit themselves).

After that story was published, I phoned back one of the tenants who had spoken to me about his housing predicament — Ed Hughes. Unfortunately, the news wasn’t good. Here’s that update.

Buyout leads to homelessness for unlucky tenant

When Ed Hughes agreed to move out of his apartment last spring so that the new owner could renovate, he hoped to find another rental within his budget.

His new landlord gave him $2,500 to leave — more than four times his monthly rent of $550, Hughes said.

But now, after an unsuccessful housing search, Hughes has found himself homeless — priced out of Peterborough’s increasingly tight and expensive rental market.

“I’ve never been homeless before in my life,” Hughes said, adding that the situation has him “totally stressed.”

Before he moved out, Hughes shared his Bolivar Street apartment with a friend. With only one bedroom, it was tight quarters; Hughes slept on the couch. But he could afford the rent on his Ontario Works payments and he wanted to stay, he said.

But he worried that if he refused the landlord’s buyout offer, he might be forced out anyway and lose the money.

Even with the buyout cheque, Hughes couldn’t find suitable housing that he could afford by his July 1st move-out date. He is now staying on his AA sponsor’s couch. “Thank god for my AA sponsor,” he said. “But it’s only [for] a short time.”

When Hughes started his housing search, he wondered if he could get into a subsidized unit. But he said his Ontario Works case worker told him that those were prioritized for people experiencing homelessness. Now that Hughes has become homeless, he hopes he’ll have a better shot at getting a spot.

He said he completed an intake form to be added to the By-Name Priority List – a list of people experiencing homelessness that local service agencies use to match people with housing.

But being on the list doesn’t necessarily mean Hughes will be housed any time soon. According to data released by the City to Peterborough Currents earlier this year, it took an average of 14 months for clients connected to the homelessness system to be housed in 2020.

Eviction prevention strategy needed

Ashburnham Ward Councillor and housing co-chair Keith Riel acknowledges that there’s a lack of services in Peterborough to prevent people like Ed from becoming homeless in the first place.

To fill that gap, city staff are drafting an eviction prevention strategy. But that likely wouldn’t help someone in Hughes’ situation. Although he said he felt pressured to leave his apartment, Hughes wasn’t formally evicted.

And Rebecca Morgan Quin, the City’s manager of housing services, said the strategy isn’t focused on renters in the private market. Instead, the main aim is to prevent evictions within community housing run by the Peterborough Housing Corporation and rent-geared-to-income units run by non-profits.

As for the increase in N12 eviction applications, Councillor Riel said he hopes that all landlords who issue N12 notices truly need the units for their own personal use. But he said city staff have heard from some tenants who said they were served an N12 in bad faith. “Certainly if people are coming in and putting people out using nefarious means to increase the rental price … shame on them,” he said.

Other Ontario cities have grappled with bad faith N12 applications and the provincial NDP introduced legislation to crack down on the practice last year. But their bill, which included tougher enforcement to ensure the landlord or a relative actually moves in, was voted down.

Riel said part of the solution is adding affordable housing, so that when someone is pushed out of the private market, they will have somewhere to go. “We want people housed,” he said. “Right now we don’t have that stock of places to offer people, but we’re working on it.”


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