Letter to the City: The Crummy Cockroach Haven Contest

RE: SRO Convention Crummy Cockroach Haven Contest

Dear Penny,

On October 19th 2014, CCAP announced the winner of its Crummy Cockroach Haven Contest at the DTES SRO Tenants’ Convention. For three weeks leading up to the event, we collected nomination forms for the SRO with the worst living conditions from residents. We received a total of 325 nominations. The winning hotels were:

  • First Place – The Balmoral Hotel: 93 votes
  • Second Place – The Regent Hotel: 49 votes
  • Third Place – The Cobalt Hotel: 21 votes

CCAP staff recently visited ten hotels, including the three “winners”, and many are quite obviously not meeting the city’s Standards of Maintenance Bylaw. Although we noticed the Regent is in slightly better shape than it was last year at this time, the hotels still have plugged toilets and filth in washrooms, halls, baseboards, around radiators, on windows, and in common areas. There was blood on the wall of the Balmoral when we were there during the week of October 13th. Roaches are still rampant.

Balmoral bathroom
One of our many “dirty toilet” pictures. This is the Balmoral, owned by the Sahotas.


As you know, the tenters at the Oppenheimer Park Tent City often said that camping was better than living in an SRO. Our contest results and our own SRO visits showed us why this was the case. At our SRO tenants Convention on October 19th, people made the following comments about SROs:

  • “All SROs should be demolished. They’re full of rats.”
  • “Those places are so deplorable. Women experience sexual assaults, doors get kicked in, very unsafe, cockroaches, bedbugs and rats.”
  • “Lots of bugs, different kinds. Lack of security and safety for tenants.”

The message from the Tent City campers and people who attended the SRO tenant convention is that forcing people to live in these conditions is dehumanizing. We are convinced that you would come to the same conclusion if you walked through one of the “winning” hotels.

Holborn clean
Cleanliness is possible! This toilet at the Holborn is a shining example that SROs can be cleaned.

Not all hotels are filthy. The Patrick Anthony, St. Ehlmo’s and the Holborn, for example, were in fairly good shape. These cases prove that SROs can be well maintained.

The action that the City is taking to improve the standards of maintenance in SROs is grossly insufficient. We are happy that the City has placed the West and the Regal under non-profit management. Since all the winners of the Crummy Cockroach Haven Contest belong to the Sahotas, CCAP is asking the city to impose non profit management on the Balmoral, the Cobalt and the Regent. Over 300 human beings have been putting up with poor conditions in their buildings for far too long and its time for action that works.

For the rest of the hotels, it is clear to us that annual inspections are not enough. Hotels may clean up prior to their inspection, but for the rest of the year tenants have to live in deplorable conditions. Inspections should be monthly and rigorous. The City should apply pressure on landlords until deficiencies are addressed. Attached is a list of Standards of Maintenance bylaw sections that were commonly violated in some of the hotels we walked through in the weeks prior to the SRO tenant convention.


Jean Swanson and Tamara Herman

Carnegie Community Action Project

Click here for our “photographic evidence” of our SRO visits

Hotels visited by CCAP staff in October: Balmoral, Regent, Cobalt, Belmont, Holborn, Patrick Anthony, Vernon, Hildon, Empress, Clifton.

Quotes from Standards of Maintenance Bylaw and our field notes on conditions in hotels during week of Oct. 13.

13.1 (1) Floors shall be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition,

  • Rugs are disgusting in Cobalt, Vernon, stairwells of Hildon.

(5) Rooms containing sanitary facilities shall be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition and provided with a smooth surface reasonably impervious to water or chipping or cracking on the walls and ceilings

  • Photos provided of filth and plugged toilets in Empress, Balmoral, Regent.
  1. c) that adequate supplies of hand soap and toilet tissue shall be available

at all times to lodgers in shared sanitary facilities,

  • Didn’t see hand soap in any of the washrooms in any hotels.

21.5 Every lodging house keeper shall provide a laundry room or other room with a minimum area of 50 square feet (4.6 m5) equipped with an electric washing machine and an electric or gas dryer, except that this clause shall not apply where the lodging house operator provides a laundry or dry-cleaning service for tenants and guests.

  • Does every hotel have a laundry room? Didn’t see laundry rooms in all hotels, or any notice offering laundry services.

21.10 Every lodging house owner shall at all times keep or maintain the lodging house:

(a) in a thoroughly clean and sanitary condition, including windows and lightwells;

  • Six of the hotels we visited were definitely not thoroughly clean and sanitary, as evidenced by the windows and lightwells. Some of the windows were so dirty that we couldn’t see outside through parts of them. Mold and grime is in washrooms, halls, along baseboards, by radiators, etc. The dirtiest hotels were the Balmoral, Regent, Cobalt, Vernon, Empress and Clifton. The Holborn and Patrick Anthony were satisfactory.

(b) free of pests, including insects and rodents;

  • We saw roaches climbing on the walls at Balmoral, Regent and Empress.

(f) sinks, toilets and bathing fixtures in good working order and repair.

  • We took pictures of toilets that were obviously not in good repair at the Empress, Balmoral, Regent

21.18 Every lodging house operator shall:

(d) provide sufficient maintenance staff to perform room cleaning as well as cleaning of all common use areas, as often as required to keep in a clean condition,

  • If this is happening, why are the places so dirty? Is one of the problems that the maintenance staff are being paid less than minimum wage? Tenants tell us that this is a problem.

22.1 In all cases, where new materials are being applied, or repair work is being carried out, the installation of such materials and/or any repair work shall be carried out in a good workman-like manner and finished to standard acceptable to the City Building Inspector.

  • Often tenants tell us that building owners don’t pay minimum wage and work done is not up to standard.