To: Trevor Day, Clerk
Re. Justice Committee, Bill 140
Response to a request to recommend amendments to Bill 140 April 6, 2011
Last week some members of the Justice Committee requested of me, Dr. Jane Pritchard, some recommendations for amendments to Bill 140, based on my deputation, March 31,2011.
Attached please find my recommendations for amendments.
I have prepared these recommendations in collaboration with Dan King, who is a tenant and former director of Toronto Community Housing Corp.
If it pleases the Justice Committee, we would be very honoured to be summoned to present our recommended amendments and to respond to questions from the Committee.
In view of how important we consider Bill 140 to be for the future of hundreds of thousands of citizens living in social housing, we would be happy to make ourselves available, at the pleasure of the Committee, to provide an in-depth understanding of our recommendations for the legislation.
We look forward to hearing from the Chair regarding our appearance before the Committee.
Dr. Jane Pritchard
Dr. Jane Pritchard is a family physician, serving the tenants of Toronto Community Housing. Since 1990, she has been attending weekly clinics on-site at two buildings comprised mostly of low income seniors. She also works extensively with the homeless population of Toronto, providing medical services at the 416 Community Drop In Centre for Women, and Evergreen Health Centre for street youth over a similar time frame. Dr. Pritchard is the chairperson of Lazarus Rising, a joint project of the Mennonite Central Committee and Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto, accompanying homeless folk in downtown Toronto. She considers that three years spent working in rural Bangladesh in the early 1980s was good preparation for working with the urban poor of Canada. . M. Jane Pritchard M.D., CCFP, FPFC
M. Jane Pritchard, M.D.
795 Eglinton Avenue East Toronto ON M4G 4E4
416-424-3145 fax 416-424-2611
cell 416-568-8299 home: 416-421-7079
99 Woodmount Avenue Toronto ON M4C 3Y3
Dan King, MBA
Dan has lived in TCHC as a market rent tenant since 1979.
In the fall of 2007 Dan was elected as a tenant director of Toronto Community Housing Corp and has since served four years on the board. He has served on the Audit committee, the Finance committee, the Building and Investment Committee and the Corporate Affairs Committee.
He runs his own business and also serves on the board of four registered Canadian Charities in the Toronto community.
505 - 341 Bloor W Toronto ON M5S 1W8
RESPONSE TO A REQUEST FOR AMENDMENTS- Bill 140: Apr. 6, 2011
We are at a crossroads as we consider legislation that will have a profound effect on the safety and even survival of the most vulnerable members of our society over the next ten years.
Our responses to Bill 140 reflect our concern for their welfare.
COST REDUCTION FOR EMERGENCY SERVICES
1. Affordable housing strengthens the foundations of communities and is an important public asset.
Social housing is a necessity for all communities, literally to prevent needless and costly deaths that will happen in the streets.
There is a high cost to an absence of social housing sufficient to meet the needs of the
disadvantaged. In one documented example, "Million Dollar Murray", a homeless man in Las Vegas in one year, cost the State of Nevada over a million dollars in emergancy services.
We know of many examples of daily visits by police and paramedics to vulnerable tenants in Toronto with inadequate social supports. These could be largely prevented by in-house support services for tenants.
RECOMMENDATION: [a cost improvement]
That the Province implement a strategy of reducing costs for emergency services by reducing the need for these services by meeting the needs of vulnerable tenants using social housing.
Expanding effective delivery of supports in social housing will reduce emergency costs.
2. HOUSING AGENCIES MUST BE EMPOWERED to access the support services their tenants need, provided in-house. Local sourcing will reduce barriers and mistrust among a needy population and increase voluntary engagement in receiving needed services. Vulnerable tenants are often unwilling or unable to travel to obtain the services they need to stay housed.
Housing and services must be provided simultaneously to minimize disruption to stable communities.
RECOMMENDATION: [revenue neutral]
This can be done by first reducing the funding of a range of agencies that could provide these services. This money can then be allocated by population to social housing providers who must be forbidden to spend the money themselves, on their own budgets. These moneys could only be reallocated to those same external service providers, who have the in-depth expertise to deal with problems requiring specialized skills.
To meet their needs, housing providers can allocate the monies to the agencies they have selected.
3. Social Housing agencies must be able to provide CASEWORKERS IN-HOUSE.
There will be a mix of in-house workers as well as workers from outside agencies with higher skills qualified to deliver the services.
4. Many EXPERIMENTS IN TENANT DEMOCRACY have been effective in delivering engagement and communication between the tenant community and management.
Maintain existing tenant participation programs that exist in some social housing venues and add more to meet the needs of the community for community engagement. This will support a long-term trend to reduce the cost of emergency services.
Examples of programs already in place in Toronto Community Housing Corp:
Tenant participation programs - Tenants elect their own representatives in their buildings or unit.
Participatory Capital budgeting allocation program - tenants get to design and advocate local improvements.
Social investment fund grants - money is available for local community-building projects. eg. Youth employment programs and resume workshops.
Eviction prevention programs - many more alternatives are negotiated when a tenancy agreement is violated.
81 recommendations of the Lesage Report were compiled at public expense as a blueprint for improving social housing to a standard that meets its mandate.
All of these have been experimented with in some social housing, and should be expanded to meet community needs. These will save money in the long run and avoid a build-up of a costly social deficit that will be paid in increased demand for emergency services.
5. BED BUG STRATEGY.
Bed bugs are an emerging menace that must be dealt with comprehensively or we will lose this battle. What happens to the poor happens to all of us.
Publically funded projects must lead the way to non-toxic structural pest control, bed bugs in particular.
Tenants inevitably resist toxic sprays, especially second or third followup applications.
This already causes tension, threatened evictions, and raises real questions of toxic liability.
Effective methods, notably heat, dry ice, and detection by dogs, face no such resistance from tenants. Furthermore, only buildings pest controlled in these ways are LEED certifiable.
This is a major factor in attracting both public and private investment.
By keeping vulnerable tenants in social housing we can create accessibility to effective monitoring and sustainable treatment of these problems, reducing service costs.
BUREAUCRACY LEADING TO DEATH
6. There have been many many examples of how the burden of paperwork has led to an unjustified "failure to qualify" by a needy person for their Rent Geared to Income program. The consequences of this have been eviction, homelessness and sometimes death.
The Rent-Geared-to-Income program qualification process must be simplified.
Simply signing a CRA T1013 form should give housing authorities all of the access they need to monitor a tenant's annual income through the Canada Revenue Agency online system.
Any expanded system that looks at tenants' income in more detail is not cost effective.
7. IMPROVE FAIRNESS FOR TENANTS:
Rental offices frequently make miscalculations in determining the amount of rent a tenant should pay from year to year.
Since we are dealing with a vulnerable population that may not be empowered to challenge their housing office, greater accessibility to fair process is required.
Tenants need an independent review process when disputing decisions made by housing providers, such as revoking a rental subsidy. The people reviewing the decisions should not be the co-workers of the people who made them in the first place. Bill 140 should mandate the creation of an independent reviewer to consider these disputes.
8. SOCIAL HOUSING PROVIDERS NEED A FAIR APPEALS PROCESS TOO:
Similarly, under existing legislation, co-ops and non-profits have not had the ability to seek an independent review of Municipal Service Manager actions or decisions that did not involve costly court proceedings.
The Bill 140 must introduce an independent, fair and transparent appeals process for housing providers.
9. RESTRICT PUNITIVE RENT-GEARED-TO-INCOME RULES:
Tenants on social assistance who live in social housing should not be worse off if they find a job.
They may need some breathing room to pay off old debts and get their life in order andy pay for the expenses of starting new employment.
This may include accumulated credit card debts or new work clothes required for their new position.
The Bill 140 should protect tenants from rapid rent hikes if their income rises.
10. Means must be found to improve security in social housing buildings.
Currently there is no recognition of a portion of the population that can be designated as "hard to house". This has a disproportionate impact on those communities receiving our most vulnerable citizens, often with quite a disruptive impact.
Enabling legislation must recognize the needs of the "hard to house", especially when they return to their homes after an episode in an institutional setting.
We need to provide a means to prepare serving professionals in their community for their return.
This can be done in one of two ways.
By setting up "outreach workers" in an institutional setting, nurses or physicians, who are qualified to go out and serve tenants in their homes and communities.
- or -
Transfer of files from the institution to in-house professionals. eg. CAMH to certified visiting medical professionals or housing staff medical professionals.
Followup services will be delivered in their homes eg. the administration of medication.
One of the most effective means of improving security is to ensure that social housing consists of mixed communities, RGI and normal market rent tenants. Market rent tenants will have a fulfillable demand for security in their homes and provide diversity to their community.
Introduce Inclusionary housing:
One of the fastest and fairest ways to create safe, stable, equitably accessible, affordable housing is to ensure that it is built into any new development.
The government needs to amend the Planning Act to allow municipalities to introduce inclusionary housing policies.
Change the Planning Act and the Condominium Act to permit mixed of condos and social housing suites in a single building.
11. COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT is an essential component of social housing.
Economic opportunities to create their own small businesses and jobs in the economic activity of the housing operation must be made available to tenants. Restoring their place in our society and the economy will relieve social problems and improve self-sufficiency.
Make programs for jobs and training to be made available from the economic activity surrounding housing delivery.
eg. A Unit refurbishment contract has a specified formula for dollars spent against the number of jobs created for tenants.
Introduce the world famous "Micro-loans program" into social housing all over Ontario.
Paradoxically, the sentiment is increasing that if it worked in Bangladesh, it will work here in Ontario in social housing.
DELIVERY OF SOCIAL HOUSING
12. THE DEMAND FOR SOCIAL HOUSING will only increase with the current demographic trend - aging population.
Passing control to municipalities must not be used to dismantle it and sell the assets.
Transfer of mandate from Province to municipality must not mean transferring responsibility for standards, which will only mean an incentive to erode service. Individual municipalities will find that they will save money if they to allow the poor and the needy to become "somebody else's problem". The disadvantaged will be given "bus tickets to Toronto".
The Bill 140 should make it illegal for municipalities to reduce the number of units of social housing offered in their communities.
We need provincial standards and requirements for social housing as delivered by municipalities.
There should be a freeze on the reduction of social housing.
Eventually, the federal government should take control over national standards.
The Funding source - must be regional or provincial to prevent inter-regional negative competition.
The best plan is for a balance of service, offered by all communities.
PRIVATIZATION OF DELIVERY COMPONENTS ALREADY EXISTS
13. Some components of privatized delivery of services have been experimented with.
eg. Private management, private contracting of some services.
Best is to gradually implement a mix of public and private delivery rather than an all-out conversion to a private system without any knowledge that it can work.
Desire to experiment with privatization to get costs savings continues to exist.
Every experiment must be carefully evaluated in terms of the savings obtained versus negative impacts on stable communities.
14. NEEDS TO BE CLARIFIED
Sec. 4(1)d "has a role for the private market in meeting housing needs"
Considerable apprehension is felt on this issue. Public discussion is needed before any untested expansion or major changes in this area are made.
Many private services are currently implemented already in the delivery of some components of public housing. These are already standard practice and well-accepted.
15. Initiate measures to introduce some equalization between communities. "416" has much greater social housing than "905"
This will permit people who need social housing to stay in their own communities, rather than having to switch communities. Additionally, with a municipally funded system, this will introduce some equity between municipalities.
Finally, a provincially-organized pool of funding for social housing, once in place, now discontinued, was a stop-gap measure to spread out the burden of social housing between all municipalities in a region.
This should be resurrected and continued until the burden is equally distributed among all communities.
16. A ROYAL COMMISSION is needed.
A Royal Commission on the development of a provincial or national housing policy would be useful at this time, for the following reasons:
• Social housing is clearly in crisis right now
• many alternatives are currently being proposed
• population demographics point to massive increase in demand to meet the needs of an aging population.