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February 15, 2021
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By tenants, for tenants, the Centre’s here for you

"The tenant is not just a constituent or even a user. She is also a citizen who, as such, must be able to exercise her right to participate in the city’s business." — Jeanne Demoulin and Paul Morin, Les locataires des HLM à la première personne : le récit comme acte scientifique et politique

Dear Subscribers,

We would be hard-pressed to choose a single example in the history of community housing in Canada where the involvement of citizens and tenants has led to big wins: there are too many. We would love to hear your inspirational stories—big or small, but always stimulating—about the transformations in your community.
 
The history of the Milton Park sector in Montreal, for example, is a classic. Or that of the Vancouver students who formed the group Marpole Students for Modular Housing to show their support for a housing project for people experiencing homelessness after some residents of the neighborhood reacted with fear.
 
Mobilization can move mountains. And create a strong ripple effect. Would Vancouver city council have adopted a billion-dollar plan to acquire the city’s Single Room Occupancy hotels so they could transform them into social housing if community stakeholders had not set the stage? It was after surveys conducted by the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative Society that “the city realized that these were the most vulnerable tenants in the city, because they share bathrooms in horrible conditions and live in poverty, and the services in their neighbourhood were shutting down [because of the pandemic],” the Collaborative Society’s Wendy Pedersen told the Centre.
 
The Collaborative Society had obtained a grant of $150,000 from the Centre in 2020 to help tenants ensure respect for their rights by, among other things, the creation of tenant associations and the sharing of knowledge and services. “The funding will support our organizer, who will be working with tenants and the council in eight hotels to show what can be done. At the end, we will be able to demonstrate the power of tenant organizing,” noted Pedersen.
 
As we announced in our February 1 newsletter, today we are sharing a special newsletter about the Centre’s Community-Based Tenant Initiative Fund. Our goal is to better inform you about the program—and to encourage you to apply for a grant. Because often it's not the will to change things that's missing, it’s the funding to get it started. To hire an organizer to meet with vulnerable tenants, for example. Or to finance a consultation of social housing tenants throughout the territory of a region. Or to train tenants who want to help manage their social housing but are unsure of how to participate in activities of their board of directors.
 
Whatever your goals, big or small, local or national, follow the example of so many of your peers: put them on paper and let’s see if we can find a way to make them reality.
 
Thanks for all you do.
 
The Centre team

All about the CBTIF
An introduction to our Community-Based Tenant Initiative Fund by Chrissy Diavatopoulos, program manager for the Centre.

True or False? Your guide to the tenant initiative fund — with Chrissy Diavatopoulos, program manager in charge of the CBTIF
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The Community-Based Tenant Initiative Fund is a flexible and broad-ranging funding stream, with projects varying in scope from podcasts to grassroots research and tenant networks. It’s easy to become confused about what it is for. Chrissy tackles some common misconceptions and sets the record straight: If your project empowers tenants, we want to hear about it!

The CBTIF grant application process is interactive and flexible
True! It’s a very interactive process: groups can brainstorm their ideas and the Centre can give them advice and guide them. Before jumping straight into the grant application process, groups can send us a short summary of their project to make sure it aligns with the fund’s objective. Throughout the application process, they can reach out to us by phone or email. Even after they submit their project, if we see some activities that fall outside of the grant’s scope, we allow edits. It’s very low barrier in that sense. We try our best to assist groups as much as we can for them to be successful—and I think it is quite rare that funders go so far to help make an application successful.

In terms of eligible activities, we are open to new ideas, to people adapting to their own reality as long as the outcomes have to do with housing and tenancy and as long as tenants are involved in the process. Whether it is the production of guides, manuals, podcasts, workshops, training, consultation with tenants, creating new networks or tenant associations—we are very flexible on how you get there.

You must be a community-housing provider to receive a grant
False! The fund is about tenants in general. The reality is that most tenants live in private, market housing, so we have adapted to the reality of all tenants. We can fund housing help-centres, tenant rights associations, tenant advocacy groups. The CBTIF revolves around the needs and the challenges that tenants face, including renovictions, gentrification, rent increases or trying to change by-laws for better rent protection.

For tenants who do live in community housing, either co-ops or non-profit housing, we want to make sure their voices are represented and that they are involved by giving them the capacity to do so by creating larger regional networks, mentorships within co-ops, forming committees, creating new structures, or reinforcing existing ones. It is about representation and making sure that it is not always the same people making decisions.

And finally, there are also tenants who are very precariously housed: vulnerable populations like people experiencing homelessness, people with physical and mental disabilities, or populations who experience discrimination, like refugees. We can fund campaigns to create solutions for them to be better housed, to promote or create housing specifically for these demographics.
We can also award grants for advocacy campaigns to larger organizations that deal with refugee rights groups or homelessness.

We fund sustainable tenant-led activities
True! The goal of the fund is to make sure that tenants are involved in their housing, that they have a voice in housing decisions, that they have the skills and knowledge to participate meaningfully. There is a fine line between what we fund and what we don’t. For example, health and social supports or recreation activities are NOT eligible, sustainable tenant-led activities. Although we may not be able to fund all activities, we can fund consultations, participatory exercises or provide capacity-building funds—basically, the process around these activities.

The CBTIF seeks to create long-lasting change, to try to change structures and make them self-sustained. Same thing for workshops and training: we can’t pay for ongoing services since we are project-based, but we can fund the creation and development, or the initial stages. Our goal is to involve tenants within that process so they can take eventual responsibility. For example, we encourage the train-the-trainer framework, where tenants receive training and are taught to pass on the knowledge and train other people within their housing project.

If you have questions, or if you are ready to start your application, drop Chrissy a line at c.diavatopoulos@centre.support

Grantee Testimonials
With this grant, we are creating and improving our engagement opportunities so they are meaningful, inviting, and accessible for all of our tenants.”
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Hannah Vlaar, tenant and community engagement facilitator at Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation
The Centre's grant will help us organize ourselves and combine our resources in order to create the capacity needed to meaningfully address the urgent need for supportive housing in Toronto.
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Gautam Mukherjee, executive director, Mainstay Housing
Articles & Awarded Projects
Women and addiction : residents help shape new perspectives
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Over the years, changing perspectives on addiction and homelessness have influenced treatment and prevention, with frontline workers and people with lived experience informing and often leading the work.The Jean Tweed Centre has partnered with Street Haven at the Crossroads to empower women to take charge of their rehabilitation process and to support them at every step of their healing journey. Read the article
Sector Events

Feb 23, 11:30 AM CT — MNPHA's Building Partnerships Virtual Conference Series 4

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Transformation is a long journey — let's be prepared to walk it together. February 23 is all about partnership and collaboration between funders across the sector to deliver better services to tenants. Register here
 
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