We can have Green Retrofits without Renovictions

We need to retrofit buildings across Toronto. But far too often, retrofits have been used to justify evictions and steep rental increases. That needs to change.

The reality of climate change is that we need to retrofit buildings to both cut emissions and to keep buildings and homes comfortable as the climate changes. 58 percent of the city’s community emissions come from buildings. And many of the city’s buildings were built in a different era, when few people expected the kinds of heatwaves, storm events, and wildfire smoke that we’re increasingly seeing across the planet, including right here in Toronto.

Unfortunately, many building owners are using green and environmental retrofits to justify above-the-board rent increases. Retrofits are also used to rationalize the eviction of long-standing tenants, hoping to replace them with tenants willing to pay significantly more money.

This is unethical. We must retrofit multi-unit buildings to reduce emissions, but not at the expense of tenants. Tenants should never be renovicted in the name of green retrofits, and such retrofits should not be used to justify high rent increases.

Rental units are not just apartments: They are peoples’ homes. According to the City of Toronto, half of Toronto households are renters.

Landlords must engage tenants in decision-making on all retrofits, including green retrofits. And retrofit projects that can be carried out with tenants ‘living-in-place’ should be prioritized.

We also need better programs and financial systems for the retrofitting of existing buildings, funded and guaranteed by all levels of government. We need green retrofit programs that are attractive for rental buildings and support tenants: ones that protect affordability and stability for low and moderate income residents. Programs that guarantee no ‘renovictions’ or above-guideline rent increases.

As the planet continues to get hotter, we need to cut our emissions while simultaneously ensuring that our communities are safe from heat, floods, and extreme weather. Yes, these communities are also not safe if the retrofits we need lead to renovictions or over-the-top rent increases.