ACORN CANADA WAS AT IT AGAIN MAY 4: practicing people power. Supporters turned out to picket at 30 MPs’ offices in 13 cities from Halifax to Vancouver. The groups were small, just seven in Montreal, four in Halifax, less in other places. The actions had no immediate impact. But the longterm impact is how revolutions get made.
It is the little things that make up popular movements; that make all the difference. Things like a simple refusal to knuckle under and just accept the unacceptable. A lot of us do that a lot. We demand the right “to choose which side shall feel the stubborn ounces of [our] weight.” Just like ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) Canada has done for the last 17 years.
ACORN mobilizes low-income families to fight for themselves against the many injustices they face. The pickets on May 4 were part of an ongoing campaign to make affordable housing a reality for all Canadians, beginning with a reform of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) tax dodge.
The REIT scourge
REITs deliver a double whammy: Not only do they bestow immense favours on the rich; but they also inflict immense damage on the rest of us.
REITs pool capital so multiple investors can own, finance or operate income-generating real estate. Companies own the real estate, not any one person. There is no traditional landlord/tenant relationship. Investors make money on their rental properties without having any personal connection to the properties or concerns about the wellbeing of the people living in them.
Nine out of Canada’s top 10 landlords are structured as REITs.
REITS get federal tax deals and pay no corporate income tax. We’ve lost $1.2 billion to REIT tax exemptions over the last 10 years
REITs have made record profits during the pandemic. CAPREIT made $1000 a minute in 2020.
REITs systematically destroy affordable housing units using evictions, rent increases and building neglect to force tenants out and increase the rent
No protection for affordable housing
“Affordable housing in Canada will be forever out of reach so long as REITs exist,” says Halifax ACORN activist Jan Wright.
London ACORN member Sarah Henke, a PSW and front line worker, was faced with the threat of eviction at the beginning of this year. “When the pandemic hit last year, my husband and I fell behind on rent. We continued to pay what we could, as we could.”
“I knew they were trying to force me out, using the rent arrears eviction, because I was talking about their lack of maintenance repairs. Five days before the hearing, I received an email saying ‘We’ve withdrawn the application to evict you’. And I was very confused to what had happened.”
It turned out the REIT’s legal team abandoned the request for eviction to protect the corporate landlords. The REIT lawyers discovered the corporation had made a mistake and charged Henke more than she owed. This mistake would have been exposed at an eviction hearing.
“These REITs have some very shady business practices,” says Henke. “Another good reason to eliminate them.”
ACORN campaign continues
ACORN is calling for:
an end to all the tax exemptions for REITs
tax rates tied to the amount of affordable housing REITs preserve or destroy
affordable housing preservation conditions on all financing agreements with REITs
the right of first refusal for non-profits, co-operatives and land trust organizations on all apartment building sales and provide them with capacity building resources to participate in the market.
To send a letter to your MP to end REITs click here
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