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City council approves governance overhaul for 2 London housing agencies

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

London politicians have given the final approval necessary for a governance overhaul of two city-owned housing agencies.

City council met on Tuesday for a final reading of a suggestion from city staff that recommended ousting the boards of London-Middlesex Community Housing (LMCH) and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in order to deal with a number of issues highlighted in an independent review published last month.

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

The review, prepared by auditing firm KPMG, found LMCH 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 KPMG.

READ MORE: Housing affordability: What has the Trudeau government done for you?

A city staff response to the review suggested ousting the boards of LMCH and HDC and replacing them with either members of city council or a member of city staff, 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.

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

The night ended in a 9-4 vote in favour of the board-ousting move, with Ward 1 Coun. Michael Van Holst and Ward 8 Coun. Steve Lehman absent from the meeting.

Council appointed Sandra Datars Bere to oversee the housing boards. Datars Bere currently serves as the city’s managing director for housing, social services as well as London’s Dearness Home service.

Ward 7 Coun. Josh Morgan praised the decision adding that having a single leader for housing will allow London “to very quickly make structural changes to both organizations, to align the responsibilities in the right organizations… to make sure that we’re all rowing in the same direction.”

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