On September 23, 2019 there was a press conference at the head office of Toronto Community Housing Corporation. All the mainstream media was in attendance. Then there was me. I'm not sure how many more of these they are going to allow me to actively criticize before they rescind my invitation. For now, I will enjoy the privilege.
Among those standing in support of the message from left to right are City Councillor Ana Bailão, Mayor John Tory, Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing Steve Clark, and TCHC CEO Kevin Marshman. I said "standing in support of" because we didn't hear a single word from City Councillor Ana Bailão.
For the record, we may begin with the Ontario government's press release itself. There is one sentence in it that concerned me most. "Starting today, housing providers have the discretion to turn away prospective tenants who have been evicted from community housing for … illegal activities and who pose a threat to the community."
Now, when the notions around tenant safety are discretionary, and neither the Ontario government, nor, TCHC have an implementation plan, there is no real effort to keep the criminal element out of community housing.
In addition, people that apply for TCHC technically have to fill out an application form at Housing Connections. That is a similar system of warehousing applicants as what would be available at a temporary staffing agency. In other words, the most effective way to eliminate the return of criminals into community housing (preventing them from applying in the first place) is not a feasible option. All tenant application procedures have been outsourced.
Now, if the Ontario government (aka Doug Ford) really wanted to seriously make systemic changes, that would directly impact the ability of criminals to return to live in community housing across the province, they would grant more funding to Ontario's Landlord and Tenant Board in order to expedite the decisions that lead to evictions.
There also needs to be an overview of what the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board considers evidence in the event of an application to evict a tenant. To require another tenant within community housing to testify (in writing or in person) to the level that a neighbours behaviour is impacting their enjoyment of their unit comes with the very real risk that the OLTB won't evict the criminal after the first, second, or even, the third appearance in front of the tribunal.
Objective forms of evidence like audio recordings and photos need to be admissible to TCHC, as well as, the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board. Otherwise, TCHC doesn't take a tenants concerns seriously enough. Thereby allowing TCHC to avoid any form of enforcement action whether that be simply tracking all police/security incident reports with respect to a specific unit or submitting the paperwork for an eviction application.
Lets face it. A large percentage of those persons causing issues in TCHC are not officially on a lease. Further limiting the effectiveness of a criminal ban. On site security would be the most efficient way to ensure that many involved in criminal and/or anti-social activities are kept out of Toronto Community Housing. But that option is only available for when a community is in dire straits. TCHC doesn't seem to think much in terms of risk prevention.
Mayor John Tory's claim sounds promising - "Discretion allows Toronto Community Housing ... to exercise that judgement. They are the closest to the building. They are closest to what is going on in the building. They are closest to what the person may have done and when they did it in the past."
Leaving these decisions up to community housing "service managers" because they are closer to the individuals and incidents that occurred previously within a community seems ideal. But it can be problematic in communities like mine. After all, TCHC recently announced publicly, that they have fired several operating unit managers. Mine included.
There was a brief mention at this press conference about the Ontario government improving how Rent Geared to Income calculations would be changed for tenants in community housing. How they would be simplified. No details were given.
I find it highly unlikely they would go ahead with my recommendation of instituting a one time, above the OLTB guidelines increase in rent to reflect the Maximum Shelter Allowance that persons on social assistance would be entitled to if they were renting from private landlords.
Honestly, I want to know how many decades ago the Rent Geared to Income amounts were set and what the amounts would be worth in today's dollars? Then again I have the same questions about the woefully inadequate Maximum Shelter Allowance granted to OW and ODSP recipients. All questions for another day.
It shouldn't come as any surprise then, that I would declare the whole Ontario Making Community Housing Safer press conference as a non event. Despite the mainstream medias creative editing there was nothing to see here. No real change.