My Building is For Sale and Displacement is “Upside Potential”

Matt Christie and Zac Killam have officially put our building up on the market. You can view the listing here.

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The Price

In previous reporting on the ownership situation at our building we had actually pulled land registry records to settle the issue.

The official parcel registry document is right here:

To my laypersons eye it appears the building was originally bought by Matt and Zac for 2.05 million dollars in 2017.

In 2021 their asking price is $4.5 million.

They’ve more than doubled the price over 4 years. What has gone into the property to help drive up this value?

A roof. The marketing copy says they fixed a roof. We can attest they fixed up about 3 apartments too. That’s about all that Matt and Zac did for the property over the intervening years.

We also know they failed to keep up with basic standards of fire safety during that time.

They also stopped responding to any and all requests for maintenance services and let units fall further into disrepair. This is documented in the Hamilton Spectator piece.

So you can buy a building, do almost nothing to maintain it and then pass it along to another sucker for twice the price a few short years down the road?

Nice work if you can get it, eh boys?

Murdoch Mysteries

Over the years our building has become a popular spot for film and television shoots. Murdoch Mysteries was one of the frequent flyers but so was Umbrella Academy for a while. I suspect they don’t mention this because their contract doesn’t permit them to use the show to promote the building.

Matt and Zac advertise the fact that these productions pulled in 14 thousand dollars in 2019.

Matt and Zac don’t live in the building and therefore don’t have to put up with a giant film crew taking over your whole street for a few days. They don’t have spotlights shining in their bedroom window all night. They don’t have parking issues because they can’t get a spot for blocks.

The people who live in the building are the ones who have to deal with these situations. Over and over again. What have Matt and Zac done with that money to help residents?

Nothing. We get zero compensation for the inconvenience when these productions are in our lives. They can’t even be bothered to rent some short term parking for us or earmark that money for improvements to the grounds or the common areas of the building.

They gave up painting the interior back in 2017. Literally painters just stopped showing up and left the job undone. Yet they take money from production companies and dare to brag about how much it is in their sales pitch.

I haven’t had a lock on my mailbox in 4 years. My bathroom has black mold and the floor is rotting out. Neighbours have collapsing ceilings. Matt and Zac just keep their hands out, keep taking.

Maybe when your building makes a great set for a Victorian ghetto you might be the Victorian villain?

Upside Potential

This is the part that really upset me, however.

“There is a large upside potential on rents for 5 of the units for $500-600 each.”

We’ve lived here for 17 years. We raised children here. This is our community. We’ve built a little life around the affordable housing we have thanks to our long tenure here and rent controls. If we had to move we could not afford to remain in Hamilton. There isn’t housing we can afford within reasonable commuting distance in any direction so we’d have to leave our jobs where we have both worked for nearly 20 years. Our youngest son would have to leave his school, his friends and quit his part-time job.

Where would we go? How would that end to us? Because it increasingly looks like we should be shopping for camping gear and sizing up parks.

We have several other neighbours with similarly long tenancies facing the exact same circumstances. In fact, by our count it’s 4 or 5 of us.

Hearing the potential burning down of the life you’ve built described as “large upside potential” feels sickening. Matt Christie and Zac Killam are blatantly promoting the value in putting families on the street.

When Matt Christie and Zac Killam spend years ignoring tenants requests for repairs, is that them trying to realize the “large upside potential on rent” for these units by driving us out?

When they try and evict us during a pandemic on a case they dropped the minute we submitted a defence, were they trying to fulfill the promise of the “large upside potential” on our home?

When they sent Canadian Tenant Inspection Services to our homes with a private investigator and drone surveillance, was this at least partially about them trying to secure the bag on that “large upside potential”?

Is the entire Landlord Credit Bureau scheme just a system for ensuring there is always upward pressure on renters to ensure landlords are always seeing the “upside potential” of their rental properties? A system for pushing the lower classes out of housing and getting the people with the most money to spend in?

I think we know the answers to these questions.

Matt and Zac used this building and others like it to harvest data from renters and applicants alike – often without acquiring their consent – to fuel the database for Landlord Credit Bureau as if there were no obvious privacy and conflict of interest issues at play. They squeezed us for profit in places we weren’t even previously aware they could squeeze us – digitally with our data.

Now they want more. Now they want more than twice what they paid for something after putting nothing into it.

In the meantime the people living and standing in the way of this “upside potential” are facing hard, existential questions. We’re looking at an end to a whole way of life and to a whole class of people living in this region. We aren’t welcome in our own communities anymore. Nobody wants us but they apparently need our labour. So what is the alternative? How do we resolve this tension?

I don’t honestly know right now. What I do know is that I’m being forced to look at and plan for what might be a major upheaval in our lives and I am legitimately afraid for our future. I don’t sleep. These thoughts consume nearly every waking moment.

I recently met Good Smyth, a man living in Hamilton’s Central Park, and the experience was life-altering for me. He’s a remarkable human being and a grim vision of what lies ahead for millions of low and fixed income Canadians. I want to leave you with a piece he wrote for The Downtown Sparrow. It’s important people do not look away from the reality we are staring down the barrel of. This crisis is only getting worse and will only be compounded by other crises. The way out is common humanity over the stark economics of “large upside potential”.