Hamilton: No to renovictions! Let Michelle stay in her home!

Anonymous submission to North Shore

The Hamilton community is mobilizing in support of long-time anti-poverty and labour activist Michelle Hruschka, a senior woman who faces homelessness if evicted from her home of 17 years.

Nicole Ransome, a local real estate agent, has applied to evict Michelle, serving an N12 notice and claiming various members of her extended family need to move in — first her father, then her father-in-law. The Landlord and Tenant Board hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, August 11, 2021 via Zoom.

Michelle has made repeated attempts to discuss the matter privately with Ransome and come to an understanding. Michelle sent a letter to Ransome, but received no reply. Michelle showed up at Ransome’s realty office but Ransome refused to discuss the matter, running out of the office and driving away in her car. So Michelle is now going public about her fears of homelessness and her demand that Ransome withdraw the eviction application. Read on for more details and ways you can support our friend and comrade Michelle, including a phone zap Tuesday, August 10, 9am-5pm.

Nicole Ransome: Evicting Old Ladies for Personal Profit

Ransome works with the Keller Williams brokerage in Burlington. She lists “real estate investing” as one of her “specializations” on her website profile, claiming “years of experience in investment markets.” All evidence suggests Ransome intends to use this property as an investment, not as a home for her family members as she alleges. It appears Ransome’s strategy is to evict the current tenants, renovate the units, and re-rent at higher rates. This bogus ‘own use’ renoviction is a favourite tactic of real estate agents and investors. The Landlord and Tenant Board proceedings are set up so that the burden is on the tenant to prove the landlord isn’t moving in, rather than on the landlord to prove he is.

Ransome bought the Dundurn Street North properties from Joe DiFazio and Filomena Miracoli in November 2020. The properties include a duplex and fourplex, for a total of six units. Ransome went to the trouble of setting up a numbered company (11970844 Canada Inc.) to register the purchase. Articles of incorporation documents show the numbered company is registered to Ransome and her investment partner, Eduardo Lupia.

Soon after purchase, Ransome and Lupia began putting pressure on tenants in the six units to vacate, alleging various members of Ransome’s family needed to move in. Former owners Joe DiFazio and Filomena Miracoli acted on their behalf, issuing eviction notices and offering cash buyouts. The tenants are mostly seniors, and a young couple with a newborn baby. Everyone got scared and left, apart from Michelle and her elderly neighbour Anne-Marie, who is currently in a recovery facility after being hit by a car while walking on Dundurn.

Nicole Ransome, a Fraud; Michelle Hruschka, a Community Hero

Ransome appears to put some effort into building a positive reputation in the Hamilton, Halton, and Niagara communities where she does business. She includes a section on her website titled “Giving Back to the Community” that includes pictures of her volunteering with Hamilton Habitat for Humanity to build affordable housing units for low-income families in Waterdown. This is clearly bullshit. She’ll pose for a photo op when it helps her build her reputation, and then turn around and evict tenants when it helps her grow her bank account. How can she sleep at night? Does she get off on evicting old ladies and babies?

Unlike Nicole Ransome, Michelle Hruschka is a true community champion who has dedicated countless hours volunteering in service of fellow Hamiltonians. Michelle is a long-time anti-poverty activist and labour organizer, having volunteered with groups like Steel City Solidarity, Hamilton Coalition Against Poverty (HCAP), Steel City Rising Against Poverty (SCRAP), and the Campaign for Adequate Welfare and Disability Benefits (CAWDB). She was been part of many campaigns over the years, fighting to improve the situation of poor Hamiltonians: pushing for increases to social assistance, for more healthy food to be served at food banks and soup kitchens, for more affordable housing to be built, for protections for tenants, for supports for homeless people in encampments. She was part of campaigns to increase job security and wages for contract and temp workers, as well as individual actions to support workers in demanding wages withheld by bosses, and to support OW and ODSP recipients to get cheques withheld by the welfare office. Michelle regularly delegates at city council meetings, volunteers on council subcommittees, writes letters to the editor for print in the Hamilton Spectator, and calls into radio shows on AM900 CHML – all to hold politicians to account and raise awareness about the conditions for working-class people in the city.

Michelle is sure she will become homeless if Ransome and Lupia move ahead with the eviction. She has started collecting camping gear and scoping out local parks for a place to pitch a tent. She refuses to stay in a shelter, mainly for fear of contracting COVID-19 but also for the severe rules imposed by shelter staff on residents. She is devastated at the thought of having to lose her two cats, her only companions since her husband Louis died. She also does not want to part with her mom’s cherished heirloom furniture and china set.

Ever since receiving the eviction notice, Michelle has been searching for an affordable apartment to move into. Michelle survives on social assistance payments of $1,169 per month through the Ontario Disability Support Program. Her current rent of $717 per month is barely affordable for her, though she makes many sacrifices. If she were to lose her rent-controlled apartment, she would face average market rental rates of $1,440 per month or greater for a bachelor or 1-bedroom unit. That’s a rent a rent increase of 101% compared to her current rate and more than 123% of her income. Rent alone would be hundreds of dollars more per month than her total income; how on earth is she going to pay for food and a cell phone?! Michelle also contacted City Housing Hamilton to add her name to the affordable housing wait list. It is 15,400 names long. Access to Housing workers tell her the average wait time is five to ten years.

Michelle did everything “right” to try to defend her home and prevent homelessness. She navigated the “Hamilton social agency hamster wheel of despair” as she calls it, in an effort to get some help.

First she contacted the Staying Home Program at the Good Shepherd. This city-funded program is supposed to assist tenants with “shelter diversion and eviction prevention” by covering rental arrears, representation at the Landlord and Tenant Board, placement in new housing, and accessing rental subsidies. When the Good Shepherd worker heard Michelle was facing an ‘own use, N12 eviction’ she quickly dismissed the case and refused help. “There is no point fighting. We won’t represent you. The Landlord and Tenant Board will approve the eviction and two weeks later the sheriff will change the locks and kick you out. We won’t help you.” In a last ditch effort to save face, when Michelle pressed them on the matter and threatened to go public about the way they treated her, the Good Shepherd rep called her THE MORNING OF the first eviction hearing and said “I came in early! Maybe we can do something to help!” Too little, too late. Michelle had made other plans. With support from some comrades, Michelle got the first eviction application thrown out on a technicality. The landlord then filed a second application.

Michelle also contacted the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic. The lawyers there were helpful and gave some great pointers on how to dispute the landlord’s eviction application, but also would not represent her at the Landlord and Tenant Board. Legal aid is severely underfunded. In Hamilton, a legal aid team of four housing lawyers serve a city of 60,000 tenant households. This has been made worse by Doug Ford’s gutting of the legal aid system in Ontario after coming into office: $133 million in cuts or 30% of the total budget. Data from the Tenant Access to Justice Project found 80% of Ontario landlords have private representation at Landlord and Tenant Board hearings, compared to only 3% of tenants. In Hamilton, legal clinic lawyers work on a triage model that means you pretty much have to be facing eviction from social housing to get representation. Facing an N12- or N13-eviction from a private rental for ‘landlord’s own-use’ eviction or renoviction? You’re out of luck.

To make matters worse, Ford-appointed Attorney General Doug Downey has used the pandemic as an excuse to accelerate his dystopian “courthouses of the future” plan. At the same time that funding for legal aid is being slashed, $28.5 million is poured into this “digital strategy rollout” for Ontario tribunals. The Landlord and Tenant Board was the first tribunal targeted for an overhaul. The Zoom hearing format used during the pandemic will become permanent. Rather than in-person tribunal hearing rooms, where Tenant Duty Counsel lawyers are easily accessible, we will have computer stations set up at local libraries and community centres. Landlords, their lawyers, and paralegals work with Board adjudicators to push through hundreds of eviction orders every day. They can do this from the comfort of their cottages and golf courses, without having to look in the eye the people they are dooming to homelessness. Evictions have never been processed so quickly, despite the pandemic rent arrears crisis and case backlog. In Michelle’s case, her first eviction hearing took seven months from application to hearing date, but the second one is scheduled only six weeks from the date of the landlord’s application. The Landlord and Tenant Board – Ontario’s eviction factory – has never before been so swift and cruel.

Michelle is not alone. Hundreds of tenants across Hamilton are losing their homes to real estate investors like Nicole Ransome and Eduardo Lupia, yuppies moving from Toronto, slimy companies like Malleum, and bigger fish Real Estate Investment Trusts like CLV/InterRent, Starlight, and Timbercreek. We must organize to support each other and defend our city against these vultures.

In this case, we must support our neighbour Michelle in demanding that Nicole Ransome and Eduardo Lupia withdraw the eviction application and commit to keeping Michelle as a tenant. The landlords have successfully displaced tenants from four of the units, where they will make a comfortable profit. Why not let Michelle remain in her home?

How you can support Michelle

1. Phone Zap Nicole Ransome

Tuesday, August 10, 2021, 9am-5pm

– Phone her: Cell: (905) 928-1633, Office: (289) 799-9919

– Email her: nicoleransome@kw.com

– Leave her a negative Google review here.

– Share the Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/788578865172672

Jam up her phone lines. Flood her inbox. Ruin her Google rating. Interrupt her business. Tell her what you think of people who evict old ladies to make a buck.

Suggested script:

Hello. My name is ______. I am calling in support of Michelle Hruschka. I am demanding that you withdraw the eviction application and let her keep her home. Michelle is a senior on a disability pension. She cannot afford market rent. If you evict Michelle from her home, you will be throwing her to the street. She will be homeless. I stand with my friend Michelle and I am ready to organize to defend her and her home. Stop the eviction. Leave Michelle in peace.

If you wish to call with no caller ID:

– Telus: Dial #31# before the number

– Bell/Rogers: Dial *67 before the number

2. Support Michelle at her Landlord & Tenant Board eviction hearing

Wednesday, August 11, 9am via Zoom

Meeting link: https:bit.ly/SLVCZoom81

Please change your screen name to “Michelle Hruschka supporter” if possible, to show support.

3. Amplify Michelle’s story

– Share this article

– Follow Michelle Hruschka vs. Renoviction on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MHvsRenoviction

– Follow Michelle Hruschka vs. Renoviction on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michellevsrenoviction