Ontario government to allow community housing providers to turn criminals away

Exteriors of the Toronto Community Housing offices at 931 Yonge St. in Toronto on Feb 6 2013. Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail

TORONTO – Ontario is planning on allowing community housing providers to deny tenants who have previously been evicted for criminal activity.

If a tenant gets evicted for such illegal activities as drug trafficking, assault or damaging property, they can currently reapply to live in the same building. The province now intends to give municipalities the tools to turn those people away.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has been pushing for the change and said it sends a message that criminals are not welcome in community housing.

READ MORE: Toronto council approves plan to build up to 3,700 affordable rental units on City-owned lands

“This has been a longstanding request from the city to ensure that a tenant who is evicted for serious behavioural misconduct, such as drug dealing, domestic violence, or involvement with guns, cannot immediately apply for rehousing from Toronto Community Housing,” he said in a statement.

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“We have a duty as governments to do everything possible to stop the misconduct of a small group of people who are disrupting the lives of law-abiding Toronto Community Housing residents.”

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said the change comes about because of Toronto’s requests.

“The cases that the City of Toronto had presented to us – there were existing tenants that were involved in violent criminal activity,” he said. “They had been removed then they had been rehoused in either that facility or a similar facility. It was something that they (the city) felt they needed extra protection by our government.”

Ontario had originally resisted the idea, Clark said, but reconsidered based on consultations.

READ MORE: CMHC says it wants every Canadian in an affordable home by 2030

The announcement was part of a community housing renewal strategy, saying Ontario is investing more in housing and homelessness than any other level of government.

The strategy includes removing rules that the government says punish tenants for working more hours or going back to school, simplifying how rents are calculated, requiring asset limit tests, and having tenants prioritize their first choice of unit and accept the first one they’re offered in order to shorten waiting lists.

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The NDP notes that the Progressive Conservative government’s recent budget actually reduces spending in Clark’s ministry by $366 million.

“We should be investing more in affordable housing, not less,” NDP housing critic Suze Morrison said in a statement.

Clark said most of that $366 million difference is due to $355 million in one-time payments, and the rest was internal savings such as travel restrictions and cutting a $4 million program for municipal research grants.

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