At the TCHC Board of Director's meeting last Friday the predominant topic of conversation was about the Ombudsperson's Report An Investigation Into Toronto Community Housing Corporations Medical and Safety at Risk Priority Transfer Process for Tenants. This was in large part due to the Ombudsperson herself showing up to depute a summary of findings to the Board. This event happened after the full report had been forwarded to City Hall and eventually made public.
Let's begin with a topic of discussion that is completely missing from the mainstream media's dialogue. According to the Ombudsman's Report An Investigation Into Toronto Community Housing Corporations Medical and Safety at Risk Priority Transfer Process for Tenants there are 1,413 approved households on the Medical and Safety at Risk priority list (1,069 Medical and 344 Safety at Risk.)
This report clearly indicates that a higher number of households are seeking transfers for medical reasons. Why is there absolutely no attempt to address their issues in this document? With many residents aging in place the accessibility of their home environments is going to continue to become an even greater issue. It is unrealistic to expect TCHC to rehouse them as their needs become more pronounced,
Toronto Community Housing should be looking at the least disruptive alternative of appropriate unit modifications that will increase a tenants ability to care of oneself and allow them to continue to be a contributing member of their own community. Assessing a tenants accessibility needs and providing the appropriate accommodations seems like something that could very well be facilitated during the annual review process. Thereby making that process truly tenant-centric. It goes without saying that this idea of unit modification would significantly decrease the bloat on the medical priority transfer list.
Another issue around the Medical and Safety at Risk Transfer Process was whether or not a tenants concerns about safety are valid. Even with all the accompanying documentation they needed to collect from Toronto Police Services (Did you realize that security reports aren't admissible for this process? Once again raising the question of why we have "special constables" in the first place.)
At the Board of Director's meeting the CEO Kathy Milsom questioned exactly how many units a household should be offered before they are either return to the bottom of, or removed from, the priority transfer list. Again the solution seems really simple. One strike, two strikes, three strikes and your back at the bottom, or off the transfer list (Not the priority one either.). According to TCHC's CEO there is one household that has been offered seven different locations. What are they waiting for? A beach front property with palm trees.
Finally, there was a comment made by Catherine Wilkinson decrying the fact that the Ombudsman's Office report goes straight to City Hall without TCHC Board of Director oversight/approval.
Well, I think we all need to be very careful about Board demands of full disclosure before any Ombudspersons report is forwarded to City Hall. Catherine Wilkinson initially mentioned concern with one other board member seconding her comments. As a tenant in TCHC I appreciate the fact that the Ombudsperson is an independent party who is answerable to City Hall and NOT TCHC's Board of Directors.
In this instance Catherine Wilkinson had a minor conflict a) with understanding the processes of the Ombudsperson's Office, b) with her roll as a "tenant rep" on the Board she should have let any questions regarding process fall to any of the other Board of Directors to mention, and c) as an avid promoter of OACH she knows that numbers are available regarding waitlists, as there are for evictions, but seems to have had tunnel vision during her tenure. I don't think she should have weighed in, or should I say began the dialogue, complaining about the Board not having a copy of the report before it went to City Hall. Seems a little bit like asking Olympic athletes to distribute the medals among themselves. No judges necessary.
The future design of the priority wait list is as clear as mud. All we know for certain is that the Ombudsperson recommended creating a Crisis category that would come equipped with new qualifying criteria. TCHC CEO Kathy Milsom is in full agreement. She appears committed to moving forward with developing a new priority transfer process. According to the Ombudsperson's report the biggest hurdle may be ensuring that Toronto Community Housing staff implement those changes in a fair and equitable manner.
(***Afterthought*** One further group of tenants that don't seem to be accounted for through the Medical or Safety at Risk Priority List nor the more mundane Over/Under-Housed List are those that are being displaced from communities that are undergoing revitalization. Where do they fit in to this hierarchy of those waiting for the few available subsidized units?)