A group of artist tenants at apartment building and cultural hub in the city’s Weston neighbourhood say that they plan to jointly withhold rent this week amid a COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted their livelihood.

The tenants all live and work at Artscape Weston Common, which is a cultural hub near Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue that is connected to two residential buildings that include a mix of affordable and market-rate units.

In a news release issued early Monday morning, the tenants said that they have reached out to their landlord about their situation and have been told that they can defer half of their April rent on request and then pay the balance owing off over a six-month period, starting May 1.

The problem, the tenants say, is that most of their incomes have been entirely disrupted by the pandemic, leaving them in a perpetual “state of emergency.”

“Unfortunately, this option doesn’t suffice for many of the tenants. They have been heavily impacted by COVID-19 and the precipitous rate of mass cancellations and indefinite postponements,” the release states. “In addition to the loss of contracts and funded opportunities the sudden shuttering of non-arts related businesses that many residents are employed at have also closed. Artscape’s communities' livelihoods have reached a state of emergency and are at a critical point beyond precarity in this time of crisis.

Premier Doug Ford has previously ordered the suspension of all eviction proceedings during the pandemic and earlier this week he told reporters that tenants who can’t pay rent and “are in an absolute crisis” don’t have to.

The Artscape tenants, however, point out in the release that the government “has not elaborated,” leading to some confusion.

They say that they are nonetheless opting to withhold rent “as an act of necessity.”

"The cancellation of rent would support tenants with daily and COVID-19 related necessities during increasingly precarious times, and allow them to continue the community building that supports Artscape’s mandate and placemaking,” the release states. “This direct action will continue for the length of the crisis until management at Artscape can provide a suitable solution to this emergency.”