Lawrence Heights resident facing eviction now has a new home

Cynthia Scott

Cynthia Scott, a 68-year-old single mother of four who has lived in her Lawrence Heights townhome for 42 years, has been offered a place to live for now; her building will soon be demolished as part of a revitalization project in the area. According to the City of Toronto, construction will finish in 2035.

Scott will ultimately be forced out. Her landlord, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC), has been trying to evict her since 2017 for various reasons.

While Scott’s neighbours have been permanently rehoused, TCHC had, until last week, only offered a temporary stay at one of its nearby buildings, without a lease. At one point TCHC offered to move them to a shelter — even with the city’s family shelter system at 91 per cent capacity, according to city statistics.

Scott said that “If we are on the street, our family is going to be split apart. I don’t know how the pandemic is going to affect me.”

Last Thursday, the TCHC said its working on finding solutions to avoid the need to enforce an eviction order. According to TCHC spokesperson Bruce Malloch:  “We will continue to work with Ms. Scott and the household over the summer to get them the help they need and resolve the outstanding issues with the tenancy before the eviction orders expire in the fall.”

On Thursday, TCHC sent Scott an amended lease and relocation agreement, which switched her to a month-to-month lease. But it also carries over the over previous eviction orders.

Scott said she’s still worried about what will happen to her in the coming months.

“It would be good news if I could believe it,” Scott said.

Her new lease, she said, “clearly states that whatever actions that they can take against me are still pending.”

While Scott only got the new agreement in writing this week, a divisional court had ordered TCHC to provide her with a new place to live in December 2020.

The court ruling stipulated that TCHC would relocate Scott in order for the revitalization project to move ahead, without changing her existing tenancy rights, allowing for the eviction orders to remain.

Scott said being homeless would be especially hard on her family. Currently, three of Scott’s adult children live with her. One of her daughters has bipolar disorder and Scott is especially afraid for her safety if they wound up in a shelter.

“The caregiving that I’m giving my two daughters that are disabled, I would not be able to do that from a shelter,” said Scott. “I would lose everything that I own because I have nowhere to put it and I could not afford to store it.”

“The violence that’s in the shelter and the COVID that’s in the shelter … she would not last a minute in there,” Scott said.

TCHC has been trying to evict Scott since 2017, first over clutter issues and then, in 2020, over some $41,000 in unpaid rent, documents provided by her lawyer show. The unpaid rent accumulated after Scott lost her rent-geared-to-income status, due to missing paperwork, and was billed market rent, which she said she could not afford.

The corporation is required to relocate tenants displaced by revitalization projects. However, it may choose not to relocate tenants in bad standing, like Scott.

One of Scott’s lawyers, Nicole Biros-Bolton, says TCHC informed the family on May 31, seven hours before they expected utilities to be cut, that water and hydro would remain on and the family would be temporarily relocated to a nearby TCHC unit. Andre Pal, Scott’s son, said the family had been prepared to fill buckets with water.