The City of Toronto Ombudsman says Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) is being fundamentally unfair to tenants who seek to move to another unit because their current accommodation puts their health or safety at risk. Ombudsman Susan Opler today released a report, An Investigation into Toronto Community Housing Corporation's Medical and Safety at Risk Priority Transfer Process for Tenants.
“The Medical and Safety at Risk priority list gives tenants false hope,” says Opler. “In fact, our Investigation found that almost 55% of the eligible households have been on the waiting list for five years or more.” Ombudsman Toronto's Investigation found that one of the reasons for the delay is that tenants in another category, those who have more space than they need (called "Overhoused"), have a higher priority for transfer. This is so that TCHC can maximize effective use of its housing portfolio.
According to the Ombudsman: “Tenants whose units are putting their health or safety at risk are stuck on a bloated, stagnant waiting list, with the Overhoused waiting list ahead of them. They expect that they will soon be able to move into a more suitable unit. Most often, this is simply not the case. This is fundamentally unfair.”
Opler says the unfairness is compounded by inconsistent process and arbitrary decision making by staff. “It is unclear what help staff should be providing to households wishing to apply for priority transfer, and their practice is uneven. There are no written procedures for making decisions on who is eligible for medical or safety transfers. Staff often give inadequate explanations for their decisions. Further, the current priority waiting list takes no account of the severity or urgency of a household's situation."
To address the Investigation's findings, Ombudsman Susan Opler has made 21 recommendations. They include that TCHC:
- create a “Crisis” transfer category ranking higher than the “Overhoused” category, for the most urgent health and safety cases;
- establish clearly defined criteria for the Crisis category;
- design and implement a procedurally and substantively fair process for deciding who qualifies for the Crisis category;
- provide tenants with clear, accessible and understandable information on the new policies and procedures, and how to apply for the new “Crisis” category.
Toronto Community Housing has accepted all of the Ombudsman’s recommendations and commits to establishing a new Crisis priority transfer process by June 30, 2018. The City of Toronto also agrees with the Ombudsman’s recommendations and will support TCHC’s implementation efforts.
Ombudsman Toronto will monitor TCHC’s progress in implementing the report’s recommendations.
The full report, An Investigation into Toronto Community Housing Corporation's Medical and Safety at Risk Priority Transfer Process for Tenants and more information about Ombudsman Toronto are available on the website and on request.
Source: Ombudsman Toronto, Canada