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London affordable housing in the hot seat as scathing report goes before city hall

The scathing report goes before London's strategic priorities and policy committee on Monday afternoon.
The scathing report goes before London's strategic priorities and policy committee on Monday afternoon. Matthew Trevithick / 980 CFPL File

Affordable housing is in the hot seat as a scathing report on London-Middlesex Community Housing (LMCH) and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) goes before city hall.

The strategic priorities and policy committee, which is comprised of all members of city council, will meet on Monday afternoon to discuss the report prepared by auditing firm KPMG.

READ MORE: London housing agencies seek nearly $500m in additional funding

The report finds LMCH’s performance to be hindered by capacity constraints, “including effective governance oversight and greater than normal vacancies within its housing stock.”

The LMCH’s board of directors is described by the report as being “more representative of an advocacy board, with only limited representation of what [KMPG considers] to be requisite skills.”
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The report finds that of the agency’s more than 3,000 homes in London-Middlesex, more than 100 units are unoccupied at any given time. The time it takes for LMCH to turn around a newly vacant unit to become ready for rent ranges from 26 to 300 days, with an average turnaround time of 117 days, the report said.

Meantime, the report states the “incremental benefits of [the] HDC as a separate corporate identity may be questionable.”

KMPG goes on to recommend that the HDC be dissolved with its services transitioned back into the City of London.

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Sean Quigley serves as the chair for LMCH’s board of directors and calls the report unbalanced, adding that it verifies what his fellow directors have been telling city council for the past six years.

“We are woefully underfunded,” Quigley said.

“We’re the second lowest housing corporation in terms of capital dollars and we’re the lowest funded in terms of operating dollars in the province.”

As for the vacancies, Quigley says its tenants are offered a lot of options and that choosing between them can take a lot of time.

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“Another thing that’s really important is that… we’ve got some places in the county that are pretty remote in terms of community, and people might not want to live there,” Quigley said.

READ MORE: Homelessness and social housing dominate committee meeting at London city hall

Quigley added that repairing vacant units can also be taxing for the agency.

“We have folks who live in our units who have complex multiple needs in terms of addictions and mental health. Our units are sometimes torn apart and plumbing’s pulled out, things are really wrecked, and we’ve told that to council and staff and have presented that publicly.”

“You can imagine how long it would take that kind of unit to be fixed.”

Quigley also took issue with the report’s comparison of LMCH to a number of other municipalities’ housing agencies that he says are better funded.

WATCH (Aug. 13, 2019): Feds providing $32M to Habitat for Humanity Canada for affordable housing

Feds providing $32M to Habitat for Humanity Canada for affordable housing
Feds providing $32M to Habitat for Humanity Canada for affordable housing

London’s strategic priorities and policy committee will have a chance to address the report during a Monday afternoon meeting at city hall.

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While a city council meeting is scheduled for the following day, a decision regarding KPMG’s report likely won’t be made until council’s next meeting in September.