|City inspectors visit the Pope Squat.|
On Friday August 17th and Monday August 19th City fire and health inspectors paid a visit to the ongoing occupation of the previously abandoned building at 1510 King St. W. known as the ?Pope Squat?. They inspected both the interior of 1510 King St. W. as well as the property lot and while they didn?t give us any certification papers one inspector named Mr. Pong said, ?There?s no problems here that I can see, everything looks fine to me.?
We are however concerned with the possibility that the City will continue to send inspectors to 1510 King St. W. as a form of political harassment. Clearly, it would be an unacceptable situation for people working and living at the squat to be continually harassed by City officials as we work to continue making the improvements that the City itself has refused to do on the building and live a normal life in our new home.
We would like to stress that the solution to the situation at 1510 King St. W. is a political one and not one that revolves around technicalities of City inspectors.
We call on the City to begin good-faith negotiations with the squatters, who are actively renovating the building, in order to bring a self-managed, social housing project on the property into existence.
We urge the City to not try and side step a beneficial political solution to the building by using inspectors as a pressure tactic against the squatters who have nowhere to go but the shelter system or the street. Which are notorious health hazards in themselves with people facing infection of lice and tuberculosis in overcrowded shelters or death by exposure on the street.
The fact that the city is sending inspectors to the Pope Squat while not engaging in good-faith negotiations with the squatters is disturbing for a number of reasons.
It is disturbing because of the fact that, along with the previous private owners, the City itself was responsible for allowing the building to fall into disrepair in the first place. A lot of the damage that we have been busy repairing obviously existed long before the City evicted the previous tenants in September 2000. Unfortunately, as we?ve seen time and time again, the City is unwilling to ensure that repairs are done on buildings owned by slumlords often choosing to evict people from the only place they can afford and leave empty buildings to rot instead.
It is disturbing because of the huge number of apartment buildings, rooming houses and other housing in Parkdale and across Toronto that are in dire need of city inspections and work orders being given to landlords who are getting rich off tenants living in deplorable conditions. Surely, the City?s resources for inspections would be better spent in a massive drive to inspect and order repairs on buildings where, unlike the Pope Squat, there aren?t already serious renovations underway and people are paying rent to landlords while being provided with substandard housing.
Finally, it is disturbing because it fits with a pattern that the squatting movement in Canada is becoming familiar with. That pattern, as evidenced by the evictions at both the Prefontaine Squat in Montreal in October 2001, and the ?7 Year Squat? in Ottawa in July 2002, is that City and fire inspections are often the first step in manufacturing a pretext for the City to throw people into the street. We sincerely hope that this is not the strategy that the City is engaging in with the recent visits by inspectors to the Pope Squat.
On the upside, renovations continue at the Pope Squat and we are well on our way to making the building safe, up-to-code, self-managed, social housing. Last weekend a volunteer work crew spent some long hours doing extensive renovations throughout the building filling a couple of industrial bins with old rotting drywall and insulation that will be replaced with new material shortly. Again, we would like to mention that the work of the squatters and volunteers in fixing the leak in the roof has been credited for ending a major risk of fire not only to 1510 King St. but also to the surrounding apartment buildings. In three short weeks, on a shoestring budget and volunteer labour, we have accomplished significant physical improvements on the building. Certainly more improvements than the City ever did in the years that it allowed 1510 King St. W. to sit in legal limbo, rot and pose a fire hazard (now fixed) to our neighbors.
The occupants of the Pope Squat
1510 King Street West
Toronto, Ontario Canada