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Nine ideas for Mayor Tory’s housing agenda

November 6, 2014

Mayor-elect John Tory campaigned on a united Toronto and a united City Council. So no wonder he named housing as one of his top priorities. Good housing policy benefits us all. It is also one of those “nuts and bolts” issues where good ideas can come from any point on the political spectrum.

I don’t know what Tory’s housing plans might be. But if I were crafting a housing agenda for Council’s next term, here are nine “neither left- nor right-wing” ideas that would be on the list. Read more…

The case against change

May 22, 2014


When I wrote what I thought was a provocative call to de-amalgamate TCHC last week, I expected a deluge of counter-arguments (at least in my email box) from my housing colleagues.

But except for Gordon Mack Scott, whom I have enjoyed meeting via the comments section of my blog, the counter-case didn’t materialize.

It looks like I’ll just have to write it myself. Here are the difficulties I see in de-amalgamating TCHC. Read more…

Is it time to de-amalgamate TCHC?

May 15, 2014

If there is one lesson we can learn from former Toronto Community Housing CEO Gene Jones – and from Rob Ford for that matter – it is that TCHC tenants crave personal contact. They don’t want to navigate the departmental maze. They don’t want to get on the bus to visit the nearest TCHC office. They want someone to fix their taps, answer their questions, listen to their recommendations, help them fill out their forms, and keep troublemakers out of the stairwells.

So let’s give it to them. It’s what other other non-profit and co-op housing providers do.  Read more…

The politicization of TCHC

April 30, 2014

In 2011 Mayor Rob Ford swept into office, swept out Toronto Community Housing’s CEO Keiko Nakamura, and appointed a Board of Directors to “clean house” at TCHC.

In 2014, Rob Ford’s reputation is in tatters, and CEO Gene Jones – a man after the mayor’s own heart – is gone.

Ford has promised to reinstate Jones upon re-election. Others are speculating a new mayor would again “clean house” after October, appointing a new Board, and in turn a new CEO, in his or her own image.

Is this any way to run a housing company?

Read more…

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…