There’s no projected return date for the 1,500 residents of a highrise at 650 Parliament who were forced from their homes by fire last month, but that’s not for lack of effort, a lawyer representing the building’s property managers says.
“This is a monumental task,” lawyer Bruce A. Thomas said on Thursday in the property manager’s first public statement since the electrical fire in the St. James Town building on Aug. 21.
The building’s being checked over by numerous safety inspectors and no clearance have been given to begin repairs, Thomas said.
“They’re still trying to figure out what caused the fire,” Thomas said.
“We haven’t had a signoff yet from the regulatory authorities,” Thomas said.
Meanwhile, it has been a herculean task to find accomodations for the displaced residents, especially with the Toronto International Film Festival taking up local hotel space.
“It’s not the money,” Thomas said. “You can’t get a place.”
“There’s no empty apartments in the city of Toronto at the moment,” Thomas said. “That has been a real burden.”
Thomas praised the efforts of the Red Cross and Mayor John Tory in finding temporary shelter for the building’s residents.
“People should realize that the City of Toronto has really stepped up to the plate,” Thomas said.
“The mayor has been terrific.”
Thomas added that the crisis have also been hard on building managers, who are no longer collecting rents.
“They’ve got obligations,” Thomas said. “The owners have to make payments.”
Meanwhile, some displaced residents are breaking their leases and moving on.
Building manager Doug Sartell said as many as 10 tenants have already cancelled their rental agreement.
“We didn’t want to stand in the way of them getting acceptable affordable long-term accommodation, to be an impediment to them making a decision to help their family,” he said.
“People are dealing with the reality of the situation. It’s not really surprising.”
Residents have been encouraged to look for short-term accommodation through their families and friends. Close to 200 residents are staying in emergency shelter at Regent Park Community Centre, according to the city.
Sartell said prices for any vacant units after renovation will reflect the market rent, but returning residents will be charged the same amount they were paying before. He said there were long-term tenants who were paying under $1,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, but that can’t be expected for new renters.
“We want them back. We want them home,” he said of the displaced tenants. “They didn’t ask for this. We didn’t ask for this. We all have to deal with it.”