Does OHC care?
By Ulli Diemer
Some Bleecker Street tenants who have been living in Ontario Housing (OHC) units for 10 or 15 years found themselves faced with the threat of eviction recently.
Their problem is that after years as OHC tenants, they suddenly find themselves no longer able to meet the criteria for eligibility for Ontario Housing. (The main criteria involve low income, having a family dependent on you, being disabled, or being over 60). This means that a mother with children may be eligible as long as there are children at home, but when the children move out on their own, the mother may become ineligible. This was the case of one 58-year-old Bleecker Street tenant who had been with OHC for 15 years. OHC told her that her lease would not be renewed, but then backed off later under pressure from Neighbourhood Legal Services. Another woman was told her lease would not be renewed because her employed daughter was living with her, thus bringing the family income over the limit OHC will accept.
However, Lou Maidy, the property manager for the Bleecker Street buildings, which are owned by Ontario Housing but managed by Meridian Property Management, denied that there was any problem. He told 7 News that “I couldn't tell you what it (the policy) is”, but added that people who had called 7 News with complaints were “trying to stir up a lot of baloney”. He said that no one had been evicted for failing to meet criteria.
According to Neighbourhood Legal Services worker Mary Anderson, however, there have been “three cases for sure” that she could remember in which OHC had tried to move people out for no longer being eligible, although to date they have not succeeded in any of the cases.
Anderson acknowledges that there might be a question as to whether the tenants involved still conform to OHC guidelines, but argued that the OHC policy itself is insensitive. She feels it would make more sense for OHC to reduce or remove its subsidy from the unit in question if the tenant no longer qualifies, rather than forcing the tenant to move out after having lived there for years. She also pointed out that in the case of single women who have finally succeeded in getting their income above the maximum allowed by OHC, there is the very real possibility that with the economic situation the way it is, these women may be earning below the minimum again next year or the year after.
The main problem seems to be OHC’s unimaginative and inflexible policy. Although OHC has virtually stopped building units on its own, and is relying more on subsidization of existing units, it continues to act as if it is trying to maintain low-income ghettos. When a tenant in a subsidized unit ceases to be eligible, the OHC, if it had any sensitivity and sense, could transfer its subsidy to another unit, to somebody on the waiting list, letting the original tenant, and the tenant on the waiting list, stay put. Instead, OHC uproots two families where it might not have to uproot anybody.
There are a lot of OHC tenants who will say that is typical of the way OHC works.
This article was published in Seven News, Volume X, Number X, August 1984