The first official meeting of the Katarokwi (Kingston) Union of Tenants (KUT) took place on May 6th, 2019. Attendees gathered to answer a number questions, such as: 1) What does victory look like in the short-, medium-, and long-term?; 2) How should our group increase public awareness?; 3) What kinds of methods are going to be useful in acquiring information and disseminating knowledge?; and 4) What funds are we going to need as an organization to achieve our goals? Though we were not able to answer all of these questions directly, the meeting was productive and some progress was made.
People brought forward different ideas and potential projects that the KUT could focus on. One of our members discussed the struggle they were facing against their current landlord, who was using an N12 notice to remove her from her home. Another member mentioned the Homestead project at Caruthers Wharf, mentioning that they had heard how tenants there were feeling helpless and confused about an upcoming AGI rent increase. Apparently Homestead is claiming that they need to raise rent above guidelines because the tax break they had received for the past ten years from the city was coming to an end. KCUT members might also be interested in this story, in which a tenant in a 65-unit Homestead-owned building has vowed to fight an AGI that did not specify how much the rent would be increased by. Though tenants have not organized yet, we may be able to help them moving forward. There was also a spirited discussion about the former nun’s residence at 7 Wright Crescent; According to reports, the “Sisters of Notre Dame agreed to sell their 1960s-era low-rise nun’s residence to the city on the condition that affordable housing will be included in a future redevelopment.” We discussed the viability of direct action, and while no firm conclusion was made, it seems as though the general sense was that we were a little too late to make a long term difference with this particular project.
Members proposed that KUT form a working committee with three different, yet interrelated, branches, focusing soon outreach, research, and help/physical work. Briefly, these units would work as following: those doing outreach work would answer emails from frustrated tenants in the city and help raise public awareness through social media, door knocking, pamphlet distributing at high traffic areas, come up with fundraising initiatives etc.; those tasked with doing research would do mapping work, do some ‘digging’ at the land registry office, interview tenants, and other systematic investigation; those who opt to ‘help’ would agree to help tenants move, assist with basic repair work, and lend a hand wherever necessary. Though this division of labour was well received, there was no formal arrangement made. Arguably, this is something that should be firmed up in the coming weeks, as we can coordinate within different groups to start setting goals and an agenda.
To the best of the author’s recollection, it was also agreed that KUT would develop a pamphlet that included a list of demands, information about tenants rights, our contact information, and the like. When the shared drive for KUT becomes available, this pamphlet will be able to be worked on as a collective, but we should also think long and hard about the specifics we would like to see, as there is only so much room. Finally, it was agreed that KUT would require a website, a Facebook page, an email address, and a shared Google drive. This will all be available in the next few days. Though the next meeting was scheduled for May 20th, the Grad Club was closed and so the meeting was postponed. Please stay tuned via email for updates about the next scheduled meeting. If you are not part of our email chain, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join our Facebook group discussion.