Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Toronto's Social Housing Regulation Discriminatory, Violation of Rights and the Constitution.

The sequestering of our seniors and others to ones rent geared to income unit for 275 days out of 365 because they are healthy and receiving a taxpayer funded social service of rent based on income does not decrease the demand for RGI subsidies or increase the supply of rental geared to income units for Toronto's seniors, single moms or dads and families.

It is a inhumane, bureaucratic- Absence from Unit-Social Housing regulation that is Draconian, Arbitrary and Capricious, in my humble opinion as a mere mortal.

Seniors, like me and my wife, represent 14% of Ontario’s population who live on fixed pensions along with hundreds of thousands of single moms or dads and families who are getting by on low incomes. Some are lucky enough to have found affordable homes or reside in RGI units or other forms of subsidized accommodations in Toronto, Ontario and across Canada.

All citizens require that sense of independence, feeling welcome and secure in their homes no matter if the are rental RGI units, shelters or others forms of subsidized accommodations within a community. And without as a group or individuals being discriminated against through bureaucratic draconian, arbitrary and capricious regulations and guidelines that are unnecessary and unfair to existing tenants or others in receipt of some form of public assistance.

Recently proposed regulation and guideline revision amendments by City of Toronto Social Housing are NOT in keeping with the majority of provincial and federal absentee regulations and guidelines equally applied to all citizens for social benefits under OAS, GIS/GAINS and Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage’s that uniformly stipulate a maximum of SIX consecutive months, not 90 days.

I am referring specifically to a the recently modified regulation under the Housing Services Act-housing eligibility rules-outlined under Toronto City Guideline number 2013-9 issued on September 6 2013 under signature of the City’s Social Housing Director.

This revised bureaucratic guideline or regulation introduced by the Toronto’s Social Housing does nothing to decrease the demand for RGI subsidies or increase the supply of such units.

Our elected federal and provincial governments and their bureaucrats clearly understand the necessity of putting citizens, families and relatives first in a compassionate manner when it comes to absent regulations for all Torontonians, Ontarians and Canadians in receipt of social benefits.

Why does Toronto council feel it is necessary to take away rights from a group of city dwellers, most of whom are seniors residing specifically in RGI units, who might need, wish or find it necessary to visit their family, relative and friends for periods in excess of 90 days consecutively or in a 12 month period?

Especially when the absentee regulations and guidelines specifically for all citizens eligible for social benefits under OAS/GIS/GAINS and Ontario Health Care coverage’s is a maximum of SIX consecutive months, not 90 days.

All citizens must be treated equally regardless of economic factors and be welcomed with respect in our communities. There is no need to treat any of our citizens as second class citizens because one might be in receipt of public assistance as is the case with this newly amended draconian city of Toronto Social Housing absentee regulation. 

Our seniors and others do not need any extra worries of being harassed or unnecessary pushed out from their unit home or fear of losing their home (unit) and RGI assistance. Because of newly imposed discriminatory practices aimed at a particular group (RGI tenants) in a way that treats them adversely and differently and that effectively leads to their less favourable treatment as existing RGI tenants further frustrates their rights as seniors etc.  

The sequestering of our RGI seniors and others to ones rental unit for a minimum of 275 days out of 365 because they are healthy and are receiving a taxpayer funded social service does not decrease the demand for RGI subsidies or increase the supply of such units?

Families of seniors, single moms or dads represent an integral part of their health and life well-being activity and it’s vital and imperative that more frequent and longer visits are generated for our seniors and others with their living families and relatives.

No one or groups, of senior or others, in receipt of public assistance or social benefits should be treated as second class individuals by draconian, arbitrary and capricious bureaucratic Social Housing regulations, as this Local Eligibility Rule - Absence from Unit.

Because they visited their aging family members or relatives living across Canada or who might live outside of Canada in Asia, Africa, Malaysia or South America for a period of longer than 90 days in total during any 12 month period.

The federal and provincial governments clearly have acknowledged this fact as under OAS/GIS/GAINS and Ontario Health Care benefits a maximum of SIX consecutive months, not 90 days is the absent from country and province regulation.

Seniors and other snowbirds are not discriminated against for being absent from province, country, homes and units and neither should Toronto’s healthy senior or other RGI recipients. All must have the same inherent rights and privileges? 

This Toronto- Local Eligibility Rule- Absent from Unit- does not build a partnership with seniors and others in RGI units and definitely is not putting people and families first in a compassionate manner but rather is a form of harassment and openly represents a clear indirect discrimination practice.

We urge all members of council along with residences of Ontario to take the necessary steps to ensure the amending of this 25% reduction change for the time that a healthy RGI tenant is allowed to be absent from their unit.

By urging your elected representative at all levels of government to strike a more equitable balance between the provincial and federal absentee regulations of six months and that of the City’s Social Housing one of 90 days, to that of a compassionate and resident first innovation of 5 months which would be more in line and in keeping with the six month service provisions of the federal and provincial absent regulation for receipt of social benefits.


CITY GUIDELINE
Number: 2013-9
Date Issued: September 6, 2013

Effective Date: Immediately

The policies and procedures in this City Guideline are to be implemented under the
following programs:

 HSA*, Section 78 Market and RGI** Non-Profit Housing Section 95
 HSA, Section 78 100% RGI Rent Supplement Programs
 Federal Non-Profit Housing Section 26/27 Toronto Community Housing Corporation
Please note: If your program is not checked, this City Guideline does not apply to your
project.
* Housing Services Act, **Rent-Geared-to-Income

Subject: Local Eligibility Rule - Absence from Unit

Background:

Regulation 367, Section 37 of the Housing Services Act (HSA) gives the City of Toronto,
as Service Manager, the ability to create local eligibility rules about absence from a unit.
The local rules can specify either or both the maximum number of consecutive days
and/or the maximum number of days in a year that a household can be absent from their
unit.

City Guideline 2002-3 (revised June 1, 2004) has been revoked and replaced with City
Guideline 2013-9. This Guideline directs housing providers to comply with the Local
Rule -Absence from Unit as published in Chapter 3 of the RGI Guide. The revised Local
Rule is effective for all new absences.

The full text of the Local Rule - Absence from Unit is included below:

1) A household is no longer eligible for RGI assistance if:
www.toronto.ca/housing

Page 2 of 3
a) all members of the household have been absent from their unit for more than 90
consecutive days; or
b) all members of the household have been absent from their unit for more than 90
days in total in a 12 month period.
 Exceptions:

Short Absence
i. An absence of 7 consecutive days or less will not be counted in condition 1.(b)
above.

Medical Condition of a Member of the Household
ii. If a household has only one member and that member has a medical condition
that makes it necessary to temporarily leave the unit, the household will not be
considered absent from the unit.

iii. If a household includes one or more members who have a medical condition
that makes it necessary to temporarily leave the unit, and as a result other
household members are also absent because they are accompanying them, the
household will not be considered absent from the unit.

Note: This exemption applies only if a member of the household has a
medical condition. It does not apply when the person with a medical
condition is not a member of the household.

Housing Provider Policy on Medical Conditions Required
iv. Housing providers must develop a fair policy for deciding what a valid medical
reason is and what supporting documents they will accept. This policy must be
applied consistently. An example of a valid medical reason for absence may be a
long stay in a hospital, rehabilitation, or treatment facility. This must be supported
by documentation from a medical professional that details the condition and the
reasons for the absence.

Absences Due to Criminal Charge/Conviction
v. If a household has one member, and the member is absent because they are
being held in jail while awaiting trial, the household will not be considered
absent from the unit.

vi. If a household has one member, and a bail condition of release prevents the
member from living in the unit, the household will not be considered absent from
the unit.
Page 3 of 3
vii. If a household has one member, and the member has been convicted of an
offence, the household will be considered absent from the unit for more than 90
days if the jail time to be served is greater than 90 days.

Note: Being convicted of a criminal offence does not make someone
ineligible for RGI subsidy (unless the conviction is for RGI fraud or
misrepresentation). However, someone who is convicted of a crime may
serve a sentence that makes them absent from their unit for more than 90
days. In this case this Local Rule – Absence from Unit applies.

2) Housing providers may extend the time a household may be absent from a unit in
extenuating circumstances. This applies if a housing provider has reviewed
appropriate documentation from the household and has decided that there is a
legitimate reason for an extension.

3) Housing providers must include the requirement to comply with the Local Rule -
Absence from Unit in the Consent and Declaration section of their household income
and assets review form. See the sample Household Income and Assets Review form in
the RGI Guide, Chapter 10, Appendix 1, page 11.

Action Required:
1. Housing providers must enforce the Local Rule-Absence from Unit as published in
the RGI Guide, Chapter 3.
2. Housing providers must inform their residents about the Local Rule - Absence
from Unit.

Helpful Hints:
 The following are methods by which housing providers could inform their residents
about the Local Rule - Absence from Unit:
 update documents and forms to include references to the rules
 discuss the rules with households at the initial lease interview
 include the rules in a tenant/member handbook

For more information, or if you have questions, please contact your Social Housing
Consultant.

Original Signed

Rob Cressman,
Director, Social Housing

It appears that bureaucrats and technocrats seem to have forgotten Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That all Canadians have the right to "equal treatment before and under the law and equal protection and benefits of the law without discrimination."

Dear Mr. Clarke,

I am writing to you pursuant to our conversation on October 21, 2013 regarding the  Housing Services Act  ("the Act") and the City of Toronto's Local Eligibility Rules in Guideline 2013-9 ("the Guideline"). You complained that the Housing Services Act may have been amended the Local Eligibility Rules without proper input from the public. You further complained that the City of Toronto's Guideline discriminates against tenants in social housing by unreasonably limiting a tenant's absence from their rental unit to only 90 days within a 12 month period.

As I explained when we spoke, the enactment of statutes, such as the Act, are the responsibility of the elected representatives in the legislature. The Ombudsman's Office reviews and investigates complaints about the services and programs created by these statutes and that are administered by the provincial government.  As part of my review of your complaint, I researched the Act and Guideline.  

Regarding your concerns about the public consultation process surrounding the amendment of the Act, you may wish to contact the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing ("the Ministry). Please be advised that our Office has authority to review complaints about the  administrative actions of the Ministry. 

Section 42 of the Act empowers each municipality to establish their own local eligibility rules.  I have attached the Guideline for your reference. You may wish to raise your concerns regarding the rationale for establishing the Local Eligibility Rule to Rob Cressman, Director of Social Housing at Toronto Shelter, Support & Housing Administration. You may reach him at:
       Rob Cressman, Director Social Housing 
       Toronto Shelter, Support & Housing Administration
                                                                               365 Bloor Street East, 15th Floor
                                                                               Toronto, ON M4W 3L4
                                                                               Tel: 416-338-8342
       Fax: 416*338-8228

If you are not satisfied with Toronto Shelter, Support & Housing Administration's response, you may wish to raise your concerns with the Office of the Ombudsman for the City of Toronto.

During our conversation you also raised concerns that Guideline 2013-9 may violate your human rights.  You may want to raise these concerns with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal directly.

Given all of the above, further action will not be taken by our Office and your file is now closed.

Thank you for contacting the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman.


Sincerely,


Laila Said-Alam
lsaid-alam@ombudsman.on.ca

Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario | Bureau de l’Ombudsman de l’Ontario 
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