TCHC tenants are concerned about the current state of social housing in Toronto and about what the future holds once a new board is elected. On June 9, the acting TCHC managing director Case Ootes, recommended the sale of 900 TCHC homes, which he proposed would help fund the long overdue and desperately needed capital repairs to TCHC buildings in the city.
Tenants for Social Housing issued a strong statement following Ootes' announcement, decrying the sell-off of public housing in order to solve the city's budget problems. They say that tenants are being used as a scapegoat for the city's budget crises. Susan Gapka, a tenant activist and member of Tenants for Social Housing, explains "This is not the way to restore public confidence in TCHC. This does not respect tenants. Selling off public housing to resolve the millions of dollars in capital repairs depletes our housing stock and displaces tenants in need. The message is that tenants do not matter anymore."
Even though the waiting time to get social housing in Toronto is between 5 and 10 years, Ootes has used the fact that these buildings were sitting empty is being used as a justification for their sale. Mayor Ford appointed Ootes with the aim of restoring public confidence in social housing. Tenants for Social Housing claim that the call to sell of 900 units disrespects tenants by threatening to fracture their communities.
The group worries that the new Board of Directors, who will be elected by City Council, will follow through with Ootes' recommendations. They have said they will be approaching to City Councillors to stop the sale of social housing and Provincial Parties to ensure that it is protected by provincial legislation.
For more information:
Susan Gapka; 647 882 2776; [email protected]
In preparation for the Provincial election in October, several agencies have been working together to develop resources and launch a campaign to fight bed bugs. Please find attached our "Bed Bug Mani-pest-o" which outlines our strategies and requests your agency's endorsement for the campaign. Feel free to distribute widely to colleagues, friends and the general public.
We are also developing a web page with general information, resources to help the general public engage in the campaign, fact sheets and links to resources. The web page is scheduled to be online by the end of May. In the meantime, if you are interested, you can follow some Toronto area news on Twitter at @TObedbugs.
Send us at email at [email protected] to endorse the campaign!
Published by the Housing Network Ontario, on March 17th, 2011
The government is changing the social housing system in Ontario:
Let's make sure it changes for the better!
The Government promised that the new Housing Services Act would make sure the affordable housing system ‚Äòput people first'. The new law does not do nearly enough.
If the government is serious about a housing program that focuses on positive results for low-income Ontarians, the new Housing Services Act must be changed. Take action by March 31st!
The Housing Services Act must be changed to:
1. Prevent the privatization and sell-off of social housing:
Affordable housing strengthens the foundation of communities and is an important public asset. The Housing Services Act should make it illegal for municipalities to reduce the number of units of social housing.
2. 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. The Housing Services Act should protect tenants from rapid, unfair rent hikes if their income rises.
3. Improve fairness for tenants:
Tenants need an independent review process when disputing decisions made by housing providers, such as cancelling a rental subsidy. The people reviewing the decisions should not be the co-workers of the people who made them in the first place. The Housing Services Act should mandate the creation of an independent panel to consider these disputes.
4. Introduce Inclusionary housing:
One of the fastest and fairest ways to create 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.
5. Social Housing providers need a fair appeals process:
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 Housing Services Act must introduce an independent, fair and transparent appeals process for housing providers.
Tell the government that this opportunity to improve Ontario's affordable housing system cannot be wasted.
Take Action NOW:
1. Copy this email and add your own reasons for the government to make these changes, then send it to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy , BEFORE MARCH 31, by emailing the clerk at: [email protected]
2. Call/email your MPP and tell them that the new Housing Services Act, must be changed to better protect tenants and promote affordable housing.
Even with these changes, Ontario needs to improve the long-term affordable housing strategy by introducing targets and timelines and funding in order to meaningfully address the housing crisis. Ontarians need:
- New affordable housing units and repairs to rundown housing.
- A housing benefit and rent regulation to close the gap between low incomes and rising rents.
- Supports and services to help people access and maintain housing they can afford, and to ensure equitable, inclusive communities.
You can view the proposed legislation at:
Tenants in Toronto desperately need your help. Tenant services could be cut in the 2012 budget
In the 2011 City budget, $100,000 was cut from the Tenant Defense Fund, a fund that provides services and programs supporting Toronto's tenants as well as a fund that tenants can access in order to challenge above guideline rent increases, demolitions, and conversions.
City councillors have warned of drastic cuts to services in 2012 while Mayor Rob Ford has stated that FMTA services are 'no longer needed'.
The City plays an important role in supporting tenants in Toronto through the Tenant Defense Fund. Through this fund, tenants receive support and access to vital information through:
- A Tenant Hotline, which provides information beyond just the scope of the RTA unlike the LTB Hotline, including but not limited to City by-laws, the Human Rights Code, the Cooperatives Act, how Property Standards works, info on the Sheriffs office, etc. and supports tenants outside of the litigation process, giving tenants options outside of the Landlord Tenant Board,
- An Outreach team, which assists tenants through the complicated above guideline rent increase process,
- A Tenant Education Project, which provides tenant workshops mainly to youth, women, and homeless shelters as well as ESL/LINC classes and Newcomer programs in neighbourhoods across the City,
- Online resources, with extensive materials provided through a website and other electronic information.
With the support of the Tenant Defense Fund, the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations is able to provide all of these important services and programs to over 60,000 Toronto tenants annually.
Please support tenants in Toronto by contacting Mayor Ford and your local City Councillor and let them know that tenants in Toronto cannot afford to lose these services (contacts found at: app.toronto.ca/im/council/councillors.jsp).
Only through support like yours are we able to ensure that tenants are not left behind in Toronto. Please let us know how we can work together to support tenants across the City.
Thank you in advance for your support and I look forward to hearing from you,
Federation of Metro Tenants Associations
The following is an excerpt from a speech given by MPP Gilles Bisson at the Ontario Legislature on Dec. 8, 2010. MPP Bisson was speaking about rent control during a debate on the government's Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy Act.
"As I said, I’ve had people in my riding who are landlords who didn’t like rent control and saw that as a barrier to their ability to pay the bills, to maintain their own housing stock and make the kind of profit they thought was fair with the investment they were making in their housing stock. Nonetheless, government said, “Listen. We need to balance the need of a person to be able to make money with the need of a person to be able to afford to pay the rent in the first place.” So it was with much chagrin that, back in the Tory days under Mike Harris, I saw rent control scrapped in this province. We’ve moved now to what we call vacancy decontrol. So now, if I’m in an apartment building, as long as I stay in that apartment, my landlord can’t raise my rent more than a certain percentage every year. But the moment that I leave the apartment and vacate it, the landlord then can reset the rent.
Say that he used to charge for a downtown Toronto apartment, one unit‚ÄîI’m probably paying about $1,500 a month, which is quite cheap in downtown Toronto. As I looked at new members being elected to the Parliament three years ago, as they came down here to rent units, they’re paying upwards of $2,000 a month for a rental unit here in downtown Toronto. It goes to show you what’s happened with vacancy decontrol. We’ve gone from paying $1,400 or $1,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment to‚Äîand the minute the person moves out the landlord is able to demand a higher price‚Äîas much as $2,000 or $2,100 a month for that same unit.
Clearly, there are a lot of people out there who can’t afford to pay that kind of money for a housing unit. Imagine being a young couple with a couple of children needing a three-bedroom apartment and how much that costs in the downtown core. I can tell you, if a one-bedroom unit on the corner of Bay and Wellesley Streets is going from $1,900 to $2,100 a month, imagine what you’re paying for a three-bedroom unit in that building or any building in and around the downtown of the city of Toronto.
If you move outside of the downtown core, if you move north of Eglinton or even farther north, to a place called Timmins or Moosonee, rents there can be pretty darned expensive too. You’re looking at rents for a one-bedroom apartment in a community like Timmins‚Äîa decent one‚Äîof about $700 to $800 a month. That is certainly not what you’re paying downtown in Toronto, but still, it’s a fair amount of money for people to pay.
So the question becomes, what has this government done in the seven years they’ve been here on a promise to deal in a progressive way with housing policy in this province? What have they done to address any of the issues on the private side, as far as rent control, and what have they done in order to deal with for not-for-profit housing? I would say very little. We are still under the Mike Harris rent control legislation; that has not been changed significantly. There have been smatterings‚Äîsome dabblings, as they would say‚Äîof attempts to make it look as if something was done but we essentially do not have rent control in this province other than what we call vacancy decontrol.
That is causing a real hardship for people because rents are getting much more expensive with the tighter market. Unfortunately, it needs to be said that prices of rental units are going up to the point that a lot of people can’t afford to pay the kind of rents that are being asked, because there’s such a shortage of stock when it comes to rental units across this province.
Now, there are some places in the province, I’m sure, where rents are reasonable because there is a large vacancy component, but in many places across Ontario that is not the case. I can tell you in the city of Timmins, certainly, rentals are hard to come by, especially quality rentals, and if you do find one, you will pay quite the dollars. Many people can’t afford to pay the kinds of rents that are being asked for."
On Nov. 18th an opinion piece in the Toronto Sun criticized the services provided by the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations.
The FMTA board would like to clarify some of the inaccuracies in the article, how the FMTA operates and how we are saving taxpayers and tenants money in Toronto.
The FMTA has been around for 35 years and runs a hotline, outreach service and education project for tenants in Toronto. We also provide numerous education materials to tenants.
Far from being a ‚Äògravy train' the FMTA has saved tenants millions of dollars over the years. Since its inception in 2000, our Outreach team has worked in exactly 1000 buildings affecting over 160,000 tenants. Our work, made possible by the Tenant Defense Fund, has saved tenants over $7 million dollars, well above what the program costs. It also helps tenants get educated about their rights, responsibilities and services available to them.
The hotline which has been around for over 20 years, helps approximately 10,000 tenants a year deal with a wide array of issues far beyond what other service providers are able to provide. The information we provide keeps people housed, saving countless taxpayer dollars from the costs associated with homelessness.
Last year, our education project gave over 100 workshops to 2300 tenants and agency staff. Our website had close to 30,000 visits last year while our education materials were downloaded or mailed out close to 6,000 tenants. In addition to our City-funded services, we work with grassroots tenant associations, operate a workshop series and work on advocacy initiatives with other community organizations around issues of bed bugs, building maintenance, landlord licensing etc.
Our staff and board have a variety of backgrounds from left-wing to conservative to no political affiliation. As a non-partisan organization the FMTA does not endorse specific candidates or parties. Our City-funded services have always been delivered in a non-political fashion. Our board works together on political issues which affect tenants regardless of their political background.
Most importantly, our services have been lauded by every administration we've worked under from Art Eggleton and Barbara Hall to Mel Lastman and David Miller. We've been independently reviewed by outside consultants four times in the last ten years, are audited every year and supply reports on our activities to the City four times a year.
The FMTA is fully aware of taxpayer disdain for the ‚Äògravy train'. We are aware precisely because of the work we will do this year with over 35,000 tenants directly and another 35,000 on the web.
Even in the face of rising costs, the HST and a funding freeze the FMTA has recently pushed through painful management restructuring and cost-saving efficiencies. We've still been able to save thousands of dollars for tenants through the Tenant Defense Fund and educate thousands more; all on a lean and balanced budget.
We look forward to delivering good value for tenants in the City as we've done for the past 20 years and continue to thank the City of Toronto for the means to do so.
Treasurer - Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations
TORONTO - The Federation of Metro Tenants Associations (FMTA), along with other Toronto housing advocates are demanding more respect for tenants from Mayoral candidates in this municipal election.
Today, the FMTA released the results of a six-question survey that asked Mayoral and Council candidates for their vision for housing in the City of Toronto.
"We expected our mayoral candidates to make housing a top priority in a City with a 50% rental population, instead they have left Toronto's tenants defenseless," said Effie Vlachoyannacos, board chair of the FMTA. While there are some good ideas being considered by candidates, in the end, tenants are being abandoned to enforce the City's by-laws and hold landlords accountable on their own.
"What is most concerning from the results is that of the three leading Mayoral candidates, only one candidate supports landlord licensing, an enforcement program that is widely accepted by housing advocates and most council candidates who responded to our survey ," said Vlachoyannacos. "Tenants deserve more support, and landlords need to be held accountable for their actions and inactions, something that isn't happening effectively at this time with this system nor with what is being proposed by Ford or Smitherman. Enforcement of the laws needs to be stronger and more proactive, doing more than just giving bad landlords a slap on the wrist as is currently being done."
"We are disappointed in the complete lack of focus on Toronto's housing crisis on the part of most of the mayoral front runners," said Barbara Hurd, a community legal worker and member of Housing Action Now.
"Ford has said he will consider putting money into affordable housing if savings are found elsewhere, Smitherman has made vague statements supporting affordable housing through using city lands and rental subsidies, but Pantalone was the only candidate who has made a detailed commitment to 1,000 new units of affordable housing per year and increased supportive housing through the implementation of the Housing Opportunities Toronto 10 year housing action plan," continued Hurd. "The Mayoralty hopefuls need to make clear commitments to help the thousands of people in our City who are homeless, and the hundreds of thousands face unaffordable rents and poor housing."
In addition to seeking candidates' support for landlord licensing, questions also asked candidates to provide their strategies for dealing with bed bugs, evictions in Toronto Community Housing, by-law enforcement, waiting list and green housing initiatives.
For the full results of the survey, visit www.torontotenants.org.
The Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations is a non-profit organization which advocates for better rights for Tenants. Founded in 1974, we are the oldest and largest Tenant Federation in Canada. The FMTA is comprised of affiliated Tenant Associations and of individual Members. We have over 3,000 members and continue to grow.
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Executive Director, Federation of Metro Tenants Associations
See http://www.toronto.ca/zoning/ for information on the zoning by-law for the amalgamated City of Toronto, passed on August 27.
Appeals to the by-law are accepted until September 30th. The process is detailed in this notice.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission, and some advocacy groups have expressed concerns about the potential human rights impacts of certain aspects of the by-law, concerning minimum distances between group and care homes, as well as restrictions on the location of rooming houses. Read a letter from the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner here.
The Dream Team has been among those successfully advocating for amendments to similar by-laws in Sarnia and other municipalities: read their announcement about Sarnia's by-law here.
Join the FMTA for our 36th Annual General Meeting on May 29th, 2010.
The AGM will be held at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) - 252 Bloor St. W, 2nd floor Room 2-214.
All FMTA AGM's include:
- Board and Staff Reports
- Presentation of the Audited Financial Statements
- Appointment of the Auditor
- Member motions
- Board Elections
- Keynote Speaker Address
This years Keynote Speaker will be Fiona Crean, the City of Toronto Ombudsperson.
Ms. Crean has made a variety of recommendations within the City of Toronto during her tenure including a key report on the communications systems of Toronto Community Housing Corporation and Municipal Licensing and Standards.
All active members of the FMTA are welcom to attend!
Hope to see you there!
The Ontario government has announced plans to ensure landlords can't apply for Above Guideline rent increases because of the HST. This is good news for tenants, BUT the public has until MAY 27th to comment on proposed changes meaning they could still give in to pressure from landlords. Check out the attached resource and make sure tenant voices are heard on this issue!