More than a year after a six-alarm fire at 650 Parliament St., a displaced Ryerson student said his experience with the management company of the building, has been “terrible.”
The fire, resulting from an electric failure, displaced nearly 1,500 residents, around a dozen of them Ryerson students. Since the fire, the property management company of 650 Parliament, the City of Toronto, and Canadian Red Cross have worked together to find temporary emergency shelters for the displaced residents.
Tyrel Olton, a fourth year biology student at Ryerson, said he has been frustrated by his experience trying to get assistance.
“I feel they don’t even have an idea of what they’re doing. When I went to the office right after the fire in August to receive assistance, the adviser told me that they were not sure whether they were going to be here the following month,” Olton said.
Olton applied for and received $500 cheque last month. He said he wasn’t aware until just two months ago that the management company has been giving out a monthly cheque since the fire for tenants who are still on the lease.
“I wasn’t aware of this until now because all of the notifications on their website and on Twitter never explicitly say ‘financial assistance.’ It says ‘assistance,’ and I thought they meant assistance with finding a place. I tried to get the cheques retroactively, but they said they are not doing any backdating,” he said.
The Ryersonian contacted representatives of both Wellesley Parliament Square and G & S Group of Companies for comment on this story — they have yet to respond.
According to Global News, about 175 families stayed at a hotel from Aug. 21 until late 2018, because Wellesley Parliament Square Management promised to pay for their hotel accommodation fees. But some residents ended up receiving bills during their stay.
Wellesley Parliament Square Management had announced that it would discontinue the rental assistance program after Nov. 30, 2018. However, after a protest outside its office, it retracted its statement and extended the duration of the program for another six months.
In the first few weeks after the fire, Olton lived in a friend’s car for a day, then stayed in another friend’s home before renting through Airbnb.
Valerie Bruce, associate director at Ryerson’s Housing and Residence Life, said that when students, including Olton, reached out for help, off-campus housing co-ordinated with other departments, including housing and residence life, centre for student development and counselling, student care, and student financial assistance to discuss how to support the students.
“We waved the fee for the five students who stayed in our communal housing within the residence the first few weeks of September,” Bruce said. “Obviously it was the right thing to do. Students were in a moment of stress, and it’s our role to support these students.”
Ryeron’s Off-Campus Housing and Housing and Residence Life then connected Olton with a realtor, which helped him find an affordable place last October, close to Christie Pits.
However, Olton said he had difficulty staying focused in school and he had to seek help from counselling.
“If I didn’t get help from Ryerson, I would have lost my mind,” he said.
The management company offered to give $5,000 to residents who wished to cancel their leases, as well as $2,500 for furnishing, according to a Global News report.
A class-action lawsuit against the building management, seeking $40 million compensation fees, is currently ongoing.
The re-occupancy date is expected to be announced in November, as the work in the building is 65 per cent complete.