Samuel Adelaar spent the lead up to the holidays this year knocking on his neighbours doors, handing out flyers and circulating a petition.
A resident at his highrise in Toronto's Parkdale neighbourhood for six years, he's trying to convince the other tenants in his building not to pay a 4.2 per cent rent increase introduced by the building's owner.
"We're still in the midst of a pandemic, people have experienced financial hardships… that will definitely affect people's ability to pay this rent increase," Adelaar told CBC Toronto.
Across town, 88-year-old Gina Gray is in the same situation.
She and her neighbours are also being asked to pay a 4.2 per cent rent hike at their Pape Village apartment building, and, like Adelaar, she's working to convince them they should hold out and pay just 1.2 per cent more — the 2022 guideline increase amount set by the government.
"We all got upset, because there's a lot of seniors in here who can't afford it," she said of the increase.
"There's two ladies that I know, they can't even afford a television," she continued. "If there's a rent hike, who knows what they're going to do."
Both Adelaar and Gray are dealing with above-guideline rent increases, or AGIs — a kind of hike where landlords can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to push rent beyond the legal limit in order to cover capital expenses like higher taxes, repairs or renovations.
AGIs remained legal last year, despite a rent freeze brought in by the Ford government that protected most residential units from the regular annual hike.
In fact, statistics released to CBC News by the Landlord and Tenant Board in March 2021 suggested that landlords were increasingly turning to the board to hike rents at their buildings during the freeze.
In the five months before the freeze legislation came into effect, landlords filed 84 AGIs in Ontario. That number rose to 266 in the five months after.
With AGIs still on the table, "the rent freeze we had for 2021 provided the absolute bare minimum of relief to folks," said Philip Zigman, a housing activist who helped create a website that tracks AGIs in Toronto.
Zigman says the hikes are a strategy used primarily by large, corporate landlords to push people out of their homes. He, along with a number of other advocates, have been calling for AGIs to be abolished altogether.
"It's [landlords] responsibility to maintain their buildings, [and] landlords can afford to maintain their buildings," he said.