UN accuses Toronto apartment owner of human rights abuses


The United Nations has publicly rebuked a multinational housing corporation for abusing the human rights of its tenants — including thousands in Toronto and Montreal. 

The UN's special rapporteur on adequate housing, Leilani Farha, issued a public statement on April 29 accusing Sweden-based Akelius Residential of a practice known as renoviction.

"I have been told that Akelius purchases apartment blocks, often with tenants already living in them, and then undertakes renovations to communal areas and vacant apartments within the block, regardless of need," Farha said in the statement.

"These renovations are a vehicle for Akelius to charge substantially increased rents to both new and existing tenants, enabling it to circumvent vital rent-control regulations which commonly allow for above-control rent increases where modernization works are undertaken."

Akelius owns more than 3,500 apartment units in Toronto, and about 3,900 in Montreal.

Toronto-based Akelius executive Shelly Lee denied people are being mistreated or forced from their homes.

"Our business idea is to provide a better living," Lee said. "That comes with renovations, and also improved services.

"Our policy is to not force anybody out, and only to renovate vacant units."