Angry tenants say they ‘have nowhere to go’ as landlord moves to cut parking spaces

Residents of a west Toronto high-rise are protesting against an effort to take away many of their parking spaces — a move that some long-time tenants say could force them to look for other places to live.

Their building’s owner, North Edge Properties, plans to build a condo tower on the green space to the west of the 30-storey property on Mabelle Avenue, near Bloor Street West and Dundas Street West. The condo building would sit directly over the rental tower’s underground parking garage, which will have to be pared down to accommodate the new structure.

“We are very angry because we have nowhere to go,” said Tawfiq Farah, who’s lived in the building for 17 years. He and other residents say the shortage of parking in the neighborhood is so acute that some tenants are going to have to move.

“What this means is that we’re going to have to leave our apartments,” he said.

The garage contains 520 parking stalls. Estimates of how many spaces will be lost vary, but all agree more than 100 car-owning residents could end up out in the cold. Leaving their cars in paid public lots would cost them far more than the $100 to $150 a month they pay now for parking.

Tawfiq Farah, who has lived in the building for 17 years, says he may have to move if the decision to eliminate his parking slot stands. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

Their problems began in 2018 when North Edge Properties applied to the City of Toronto to build the 49-storey tower. The city opposed the project, saying the proposed building was too big and had too little space for parking. But the owner appealed last year to the Ontario Land Tribunal, which sided with North Edge, meaning the project will go ahead.

In a letter to residents, North Edge suggests the tenants canvas other buildings in the neighborhood for available parking spaces, or use a nearby paid parking lot. CBC Toronto has tried to contact North Edge by phone and email, but so far has not received a reply.

Residents say the building’s owner originally gave them only a month to find new places to park their vehicles, warning them their vehicles needed to be gone by the end of February.

They say the owner backed down only after residents picked the site of the new development last month. However, the tenants say they’ve been warned North Edge is still pursuing development and they’ll have to remove their vehicles by April.

“Some people have lived here for more than 20 years,” said Farah. “I’m going to have to move if this goes ahead. I’ll have no other choice.”

Tenants could get rents reduced, advocate says

The residents have vowed to fight on. They want the condo’s design tweaked so the rental building can retain its complement of parking spots. And some experts say they may have a case.

If the spots are removed, the tenants could ask the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board for a rent reduction, according to Barrington Lue Sang, a paralegal who specializes in landlord-tenant disputes.

An artist’s rendering of the new condo tower planned for the green space just to the west of the existing rental building at 25 Mabelle Ave. The parking garage is below the planned tower. (City of Toronto)

“The board could consider that an interference with the enjoyment of the property, where now they’d have to trek away from the rental complex to find parking,” said Lue Sang, who added that “could mean a substantial abatement” in rents.

The Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations has also taken up the residents’ cause.

Euridice Baumgarten, a tenant organizer with the federation, says it’s becoming increasingly common for owners of rental buildings to chip away at the amenities that residents pay for as part of their rent, because they want to redevelop as much of their properties as possible.

‘It’s happening all the time’

She says landlords are taking “every bit of space they can find, stuff that used to be used for just green space, or tennis courts, or swimming pools, and just turning it all inside out, and putting up new buildings.”

“It’s happening all the time in the last few years. All the time,” she said.

It’s not just the loss of their own spaces that concerns tenants. Some say an undetermined reduction in the number of visitor spaces will make it difficult for friends and family to drop by, which they argue will seriously affect their quality of life.

Caroline Sayer, who’ll keep her spot in the parking garage because she has a disability, worries about the impact the elimination of so many spots could have on her neighbours. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

Caroline Sayer won’t be losing her spot because she has a disability, but she says she’s worried.

“They’re making it harder for us to live in this building,” Sayer told CBC News.

“When we have friends come over, they’re going to have to pay for parking elsewhere, so it really does affect everyone in the building.”

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