thumb-2023-06-010-rent-strike This article is more than 9 months old

Toronto Mayoral Candidate Ana Bailão Worked For Big Developer Facing Rent Strike By Tenants

Bailão served as 'affordability' adviser for a corporate landlord that keeps raising rents on low-income tenants

Toronto Mayoral candidate Ana Bailão’s recent work as a “public affairs” adviser for a big developer is drawing scrutiny from tenants groups who are facing off against the corporate landlord in a rent strike.

Bailão recently scored endorsements from disgraced former mayor John Tory as well as the Toronto Star, who dubbed her a “pragmatic centrist” with “vital experience on the housing file.”

But a closer look at Bailão’s “vital experience” shows the former councillor previously  voted against rent control on units built with city money and also worked as a key adviser for a controversial corporate landlord.

After losing her council seat last year, Bailão moved to the private sector and began working for the developer Dream Unlimited as head of the company’s “affordable housing and public affairs” department.

In a January 2023 interview with a local real estate blog, Bailão suggested her new job with Dream Unlimited could help find new “ways to deliver affordable housing,” adding that “affordable housing is a commitment from which I will never waver whether in the public or private sector.”

Yet Dream Unlimited has been locked in battles with low-income tenants in Toronto over rent increases both before and after Bailão’s time as head of “public affairs” with the company.

The company is currently attempting to force tenants at 33 King Street to accept another above guideline rent increase, over and above rent controls.

According to the York South-Weston Tenant Union, tenants at 33 King have seen rents increase by “22% in the last five years, despite living in a rent-controlled building, which should have seen rents increase no more than seven per cent in the same period” — some tenants say their rent has increased 40% over the last decade.

Dream Unlimited has over “$16 billion in assets and 30,000 rental units under its control.”

Tenants of the building have gone through six above-guideline rent increases under multiple owners in the last 10 years.

Chiara Padovani, co-chair of the York South Weston tenants union, which represents tenants at Dream Unlimited’s building at 33 King Street said it reflects her real priorities.

“It does not surprise me that she left city council to work for a developer because when she was the ‘housing advocate,’ at city hall, she voted against rent control, she voted against tenant protections,” Padovani told PressProgress.

“Leaving council to work for a private developer didn’t come as a surprise. But it is quite clear to tenants whose side she is on.”

York South-Weston Tenant Union (Facebook)

In 2022, when tenants exercised their legal right and refused to pay the above-guideline increase, Padovani said they were ordered to pay arrears and threatened with eviction.

“The way the AGIs work is they get applied before they’re approved, so the tenant has the right to pay the government guideline which is rent controlled until the Landlord-Tenant Board approves the increase.” Padovani said this landlord, “did threaten to evict everyone who was doing that, paying their lawful rent. “

“But thanks to tenant organizing, the landlord sent apology letters.”

According to its own numbers, half of Dream Unlimited’s 2022 is profit.

“Rents aren’t going up owing to some automatic process. They’re going up because landlords are raising them and our government lets them. 50% of Dream’s Revenue is profit. Landlords are making more today than they ever have. That’s why rents are going up,” Padovani said.

“That’s what the rent strike is about.”

Neither Bailão nor Dream Unlimited responded to requests for comment from PressProgress.


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Mitchell Thompson
Mitchell Thompson is PressProgress’ Ontario reporter. His reporting has a special focus on workers and communities, and public services and privatization, and public accountability.

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