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No villains here!

January 8, 2014

Is Toronto Community Housing CEO Gene Jones a villain?

That is the contention of Torontoist contributor Desmond Cole. According to Cole, Jones is on a “blame crusade” to shift responsibility for TCHC’s neglected buildings onto tenants.  He notes that Jones rewarded Swansea Mews with a $150,000 maintenance grant when tenants reported criminal activity leading to charges against three men.  In the following week, Jones “called for a ‘partnership’ between his staff and residents to fix long-neglected properties.”

Cole is absolutely correct in saying tenants are not to blame for TCHC’s poor state of repair. Chronic underfunding for capital repairs, extending back to the days when the Ontario Housing Corporation funded TCHC’s oldest buildings, is the real villain here.

But I also believe TCHC has no hope of repairing its buildings without tenants’ help. Why? Read more…

Getting to “us”

December 18, 2013

I write about housing because it is what I know, and where I think I may have something to contribute.

But for me, good housing policy is only a means to an inclusive and joyful society — a way to break down the barriers between “us” and “them.”  Read more…

A budget running on empty

December 10, 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged that it’s a mistake to patch an operating budget with one-time money.

Toronto’s Executive Committee, backed by Toronto’s City Manager Joe Pennachetti, has made this principle a point of pride. Mayor Ford has gone on record saying, “Before I took office, any annual surplus was used to fill holes in bloated operating budgets. . . . We have put an end to the unsustainable budget practices of the last administration. It is over.”

So why is the City of Toronto now proposing to balance its 2014 operating budget with $28 Million in housing reserves? Read more…

A 50’s gal remembers housing heaven

November 27, 2013

I was born in 1955. For most of us, the 1950s conjure up an image of shiny faces in shiny new suburban homes. Mom is in the kitchen, dad is at work, and kids play happily on the front lawn.

It seems odd that an era so beloved of conservatives could be affordable housing heaven. Yet I believe it was a time when the modest requests of today’s housing activists — re-invest housing savings to preserve our housing stock; create new homes for the next generation – would not receive the chilly response they do today. They would have been seen as simple common sense.

What did the 1950s have that we don’t have now?  Read more…

Home thoughts

July 11, 2013

Housing stability. Rapid re-housing. Prevention. Diversion.

These were the words that guided discussion at the first of four service provider consultations hosted by the City of Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration Division last week. The consultations are a welcome opportunity to inform the City’s Five-Year Housing Stability Plan and the public’s annual $650 Million investment in housing and homelessness.

For some, these terms are full of meaning. But I can’t help wondering whether our discussion somehow missed the mark. What if the foundation for the City’s housing strategy was a single, simple goal:

Everyone has a home. Read more…

Bureaucracy in the making

July 3, 2013

On June 13th, City Council asked Fiona Crean – already working full-time as the City’s Ombudsman – to act as Toronto Community Housing’s eviction monitor. At the same meeting, Council called for a Commissioner of Housing Equity to hear tenant complaints. And then on June 26th, Councillor Mihevc brought forward a motion to add reviews of subsidy calculations to the Landlord Tenant Board’s duties.

Will these changes help TCHC tenants stay housed? I’m not so sure. Read more…

It’s not Ford’s fault!

June 12, 2013

It’s not David Miller’s fault either. It’s not the fault of Toronto Community Housing’s present Board of Director, the previous Board, or the Board before them.

I’m talking about the scathing Toronto Ombudsman’s Housing at Risk: An Investigation into the Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s Eviction of Seniors on the Basis of Rent Arrears. The report examined the files of 79 seniors evicted from TCHC in 2011 and 2012 and found, “a pattern of callous and unfair treatment of many seniors, including at least one case in which a tenant died shortly after eviction.” Read more…

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