Keep your Rent, Help Each Other: Roundup of rent refusal and mutual aid organizing

Across Ontario, many tenants across the region will withhold rent from their landlord. Even though we are constantly told we are all in this together, the social impact of the virus will be hugely uneven and intensify existing inequalities. Whether tenants still have the means to pay this month or not, this movement shows solidarity with those who can’t and recognizes that few people can last long without the income they’re counting on.

Alongside this, people across the region have organized to help out their neighbours autonomously.. We are highlighting mutual aid projects that try to go beyond a social media page to build lasting independent strength in their neighbourhoods.

We hope this roundup will contribute to communication between various initiatives and share the tactics and ideas they using to encourage others to not accept their organizing being exiled to the internet. We are certainly missing interesting endeavours, so please get in touch in the comments or at northshore a t riseup do t net to let us know.

In Toronto, Parkdale Organize:

“We should keep our rent. Our landlords will be fine. We may not be. No tenant should feel forced to hand over so much money when faced with so much uncertainty. You should keep your rent. Whatever you have, hang on to it. Once you give it to your landlord, it’s gone. You won’t have it for food or for medicine. You won’t have it for you, your family, your friends, your neighbours, or your co-workers – no-one. Your landlord will have it. It will go in their bank account and it will secure their investments. While you and everyone you care about stares down the barrel of insecurity.”

In Ottawa, Herongate Tenant Coalition:

Now is the time to get organized to #keepyourrent. We have 10 days until April 1. Start talking to your neighbours safely (this means no door knocking, handing out flyers or sharing pens), putting up posters, & join the facebook group:

In Kingston, Mutual Aid Katarokwi:

Mutual aid is the belief that cooperation trumps competition when it comes to fulfilling each other’s needs. Mutual aid stands in opposition to the social Darwinian brutality of unfettered capitalism. Mutual aid is acting in a spirit of social solidarity through autonomous direct action, stepping-up and standing in opposition to the ruthlessness that the current system has set loose upon us. Mutual Aid Katarokwi believes that we must simultaneously address people’s immediate self-determined needs for survival and organize for fundamental shifts in the way we relate to each other and the earth.

In Hamilton, Downtown East Mutual Aid:

We are a grassroots network of neighbours supporting each other during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis. We believe that in this trying time, more than ever, we must care for each other and fight together to ensure that everyone has access to healthcare, housing, food, and other necessities.

Also in Hamilton, Keep Your Rent:

Before COVID19, tenants across Canada were struggling to make ends meet. We were already in the midst of the worst affordable housing crisis in the country’s history. Wages and social assistance rates are too low. Rent is too high. Here in Hamilton, this pressure was becoming unbearable. 45% of Hamilton tenants were spending more than 30% of our income on rent, and 20% of us were spending more than 50%. And it was only getting worse – in 2018, Hamilton saw the highest one-year average rent increase in all of Canada, at 24%.

In St Catharine’s, Rent Strike Niagara:

“I know tons of people in the Niagara region who have lost work altogether in the service industry who are being told it’s going to be weeks before they see if they’re eligible for emergency benefits, because they don’t qualify for EI. There are migrant workers in the region who are also affected by the loss of work and border closure. There are a lot of people being massively economically impacted.”