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London committee votes for governance overhaul of 2 city-owned housing agencies

A London and Middlesex Housing Corporation apartment building at 241 Simcoe St. in London, Ont. Google Maps

London city councillors narrowly voted in favour of a governance overhaul for London-Middlesex Community Housing (LMCH) and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) at a strategic priorities and policy committee meeting dedicated to housing on Monday.

READ MORE: London city councillors to hold special meeting on affordable housing Monday

The move to oust the respective boards of the two city-owned housing agencies was first suggested by city staff in response to an independent review of LMCH and the HDC.

In the review, which was published last month, LMCH was found to be hindered by a lack of governance oversight mixed with a higher-than-normal vacancy rate.

The review also questioned the benefit of having the HDC operate as a separate entity, noting that its existence may bring increased financial risk to the city and that its services are likely to overlap with those of LMCH.

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A lack of back-office integration and overall communication between the city and the two housing agencies were also noted in the review prepared by auditing firm KPMG.

READ MORE: Governance overhaul may be what’s needed for London affordable housing: report

A city staff response to the review produced a potential solution that would see the boards of LMCH and HDC replaced by either members of city council or a member of city staff.

Those individuals would then be tasked with solving the housing issues highlighted in KPMG’s review.

The governance overhaul would only be in place on an interim basis before a long-term leadership decision approved by council could be made for the agencies.

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In a request for delegation status ahead of Monday’s meeting, LMCH urged city councillors to take an alternative route that would keep its board intact.

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The agency also provided details on a plan to address housing issues that included a request for $141 million in operating and capital funds over the next four years.

Councillors quashed Monday’s debate with a narrow 7-6 vote in favour of city staff’s recommendation, with Ward 1 Coun. Michael Van Holst and Ward 8 Coun. Steve Lehman absent from the meeting.

Since Monday’s vote came from the strategic priorities and policy committee, the decision won’t be ratified until it has received approval from the full city council.

City council’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

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