Saturday, 20 April 2013

Brighter Prospects?

Read a little bit of Ontario Report "Brighter Prospects" ...a report by the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance prepared by Commissioners Frances Lanken and Munir A. Sheikh.

Was looking, of course, specifically for what it says about housing in Ontario. Disappointing. Extremely so, in fact. This section of the report, on page 90 if you're interested, shows a total lack of understanding of WHY people on assistance are having difficulty accessing affordable housing.

Which is not surprising, as they apparently consulted with "stakeholders" -  i.e. people on assistance, most of whom have extremely limited understanding of why landlords refuse to rent to them, having rarely had the opportunity to be on the other side of the landlord-tenant relationship. My perspective - back when I was a single mother (albeit working, rather than on assistance) was very different than it is now that I am on the other side of the deal - I did not have a CLUE...

So it does not surprise me that the majority of low income people seeking housing don't get it.

The others who were provided the opportunity for input, however, should have done better.

Better yet, someone should have asked the landlords what the problem is and how to fix it. Because I'm sorry, but the recommendation that is offered will not do it. What they are suggesting is a housing benefit for not only those on assistance, but "all people with low-incomes." 

Guess what? We will still refuse to offer affordable housing to people on assistance. Those of us who have been burned - and all of those who haven't but have heard about our experiences and realize how easily it could happen to them - will continue to rent to people with jobs and NOT to people on OW/ODSP.  It doesn't matter how much money you give to people on assistance in Ontario for rent - it is not worth the risk, and we know it.

And you can cry discrimination and make laws against discrimination all you want - but the reality is that not all landlords are independently wealthy. Many, like me, cannot AFFORD to provide housing to people on assistance - because when it goes bad, it goes really, REALLY bad, and there is no help at all for us in Ontario. Everyone wants money - but no one actually DOES anything to help, at least not in any reasonable period of time.

The money that my last tenant-from-hell cost me was about 1/3 of my gross income for a year. Gross. Not net. How would YOU like to take a hit like that? Yeah, I thought not.

At least, if you rent to someone with a job and a good credit rating and it goes bad, you have some small hope of recovery. It might take a long time and a lot of hassle - but we will eventually likely get at least some of our money back.

If you rent to someone with neither of those things, when it goes bad, you get to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars  - and continue to provide them with housing and all amenities for the months it takes to get them out - and for the damages they do during that time.... and you have ZERO chance of recovery at the end of it. Ever.

It is not even worth paying to file the order that the Legalized Theft Board will eventually give you against them ...which is a shame, as it means that the orders don't show up on their credit ratings so other people learn the hard way too....

We pay taxes which go to support people on OW and ODSP. Our taxes also support, presumably, the agencies which go out of their way to protect the poor helpless tenants against the big bad landlords - the Legalized Theft Board, the Sheriff's Office, the police, local by-law officials and so on ....

Guess what?

People don't get to be in the position of having money and credit to buy properties to rent by being stupid.

Chance of recovery vs no possibility of recovery - who would YOU rent to?

If the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance actually wanted to make recommendations to address the difficulties of finding housing for marginalized people they should talk to the landlords. Stop by the  why don't you?

The problems CAN be fixed ... but not by giving low income people more money, sorry. Won't work.

There are some relatively simple measures which would drastically improve the situation ... but it seems that no one wants to hear them; most can't even be bothered to respond to emails.

I don't claim to have all the answers ...but I DO have suggestions:

  • As soon as a landlord reports an issue with a tenant's rent to their OW/ODSP worker, their shelter allowance should be STOPPED pending resolution. Hold it in trust until the issue is resolved by the LTB, then distribute it as per the order
  • individuals who have demonstrated their inability to manage their housing independently should be on direct pay (rent paid directly to landlords) AND required to provide 60 days notice to landlord and worker before shelter allowances can be redirected
  • If you really feel the need to throw money at the problem, I would suggest that it would be better used to create a fund which could guarantee tenancies. For example, if my tenant has messed up and needs assistance to save their housing, the fund would pay the shortfall - and - so as to reduce abuse - require that they pay it back through a small monthly deduction. Expecting landlords to eat it every time a tenant doesn't pay their rent is not reasonable.
  • The LTB needs an attitude adjustment. Their role is to implement the RTA - NOT to assist tenants to screw landlords and to provide worthless orders. There should be timelines for hearings - it is not reasonable to allow lengthy delays. And they should treat all parties with respect. Yes, even landlords.
  • The Sheriff's Office is a joke. When evictions are ordered, they need to happen - even if it happens to be winter, or December, or someone's week off or what-the-hell-ever.  If the Sheriff's Office can't handle that, then end their monopoly; allow us to pay someone else to execute the order. And again - some training re: treating people with respect wouldn't hurt. I'd be happy to contribute to it through my taxes.


1 comment:

  1. This article is awesome. Its so true. I would never rent to anyone unless they had stellar credit and job because of the things you outlined above. +1


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