Around 1,500 people had to find emergency accommodations after electrical fire damage
There is a light at the end of the tunnel for about a dozen Ryerson students displaced by a fire at a downtown apartment building at 650 Parliament St. in 2018. This was one of the biggest residential fires Toronto has seen in years. The Wellesley Parliament Square (WPS) management announced on Friday that tenants can begin moving into the newly renovated building starting March 2, 2020.
“I’m kind of excited, because I get to have my own place back,” said Tyrel Olton, a fourth-year biology student at Ryerson, who was displaced by the fire. He is scheduled to move in in the second week of April.
But he said he’s also worried that something could happen between now and the move-in date, leaving him with no place to live.
“It’s kind of like a double-edged sword. I have to be quick on my feet, because who knows what could happen.”
Olton’s skepticism toward the building’s management comes from what he says was the lack of communication and organization on their part throughout the renovation process. He said the first move-in date was scheduled for November of last year. When that didn’t happen, he hadn’t heard from management until a few days ago.
When the fire happened in 2018, Olton was in the building.
“I literally saw flames and I didn’t know if I was gonna make it,” he said.
He spent the next few days living in his friend’s car, since his friend, a U of T student, has strict regulations on overnight visitors.
Soon after, he found a place in Parkdale. It’s not ideal, he said, because it’s much farther from school than 650 Parliament St. is. He also shares it with a roommate, which was an adjustment after living on his own.
Following the fire, the WPS management has been attempting to support the displaced residents financially. The process however, lacks organization, according to Olton. The payments are not consistent nor substantial.
“I think what they were trying to do, is kind of give us hush money,” he said.
In its move-in date announcement on Friday, WPS management wrote that it will charge tenants the same amount in rent it charged them before the fire. Yet Olton is not convinced the management company will follow through with its promise.
“I would really like that in writing,” he said, fearing that management will back down on its word and hike up the rent a few months following the move-in date.
The residents of the building have a Facebook group where they communicate with each other and discuss their standard of living demands, before presenting them to WPS management, said Olton.
“As terrible as this situation was, it kind of brought us all together. We’re working together so that when we get back, everything is up to standards that we want to be living in.”