Is Everyone in Co-operative Housing Really Co-operative?

Housing co-operatives, whether non-profit or ownership models, do require some degree of deliberate co-operation. Naturally, there will be conflicts of all kinds:  many types of activities and behaviours, even if no criminal law or City by-law is broken, may breach a co-op’s rules,  and annoy neighbour or possibly both. When the rent, known as occupancy charges,  gets behind, the concept of “co-operation” gets stretched to the breaking point. Membership meetings are held, and the landlord who can evict you is — surprise! — your neighbours! This is much more personal than in a condominium, where a bank may repossess your unit if your mortgage falls behind, or the condo unit owner can lock you out if you are renting the unit, or a corporation places a lien on your unit if the monthly condo fees are not paid.

The most striking difference between co-op housing and all other forms of tenancy,  besides the charming aspect that residents are called  “members”, is that until this year, financial problems and evictions ended up in a different and much more expensive court process than all other evictions. At our legal clinic we are  eagerly anticipating changes that will simplify (we hope) the problem-solving for co-op members. On June 1, 2014, the Landlord and Tenant Board will become the arbiter of co-op disputes.

What is so monumental about this change, and who is going to notice?  We think that all agency and settlement workers might want to be aware of this, in case their clients live in co-ops. Also, social assistance office employees should be pleased: resolutions should be faster, easier and less expensive for all. We hope. For more information, the Co-op Housing Federation has put it all in one place, in their newsletter at  http://www.chfcanada.coop/eng/pdf/ONB/ONB2014-04.pdf

If you are a co-op member, you have probably received quite a bit of explanation about the changes, but if not, you should inform yourself. Decisions will still need to be approved by the members. You might find that you are the subject of the new process, or the decision-maker.

Job Opening: Crime Fighter, No Cape Required.

By Ann McRae

 

Today’s crime fighters wear jeans and sweaters, carry a cell phone and work for a vast network of modestly funded agencies.

Furthering Our Communities: Uniting Services (FOCUS) Rexdale is the City of Toronto’s first foray into a model of crime prevention that was first developed in Glasgow and later tested in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

 A familiar scenario

Picture this:

A young man with low education and a low-paying part-time job is stressed out over his limited chance to improve his financial situation, and by his six year old child’s untreated autism. He snaps over one more degrading remark at work, and quits. He goes home angry, damages his own door when he kicks it open, not knowing his autistic son was holding it shut. He rages at the child, gets in a scuffle with his girlfriend who calls the police.

The police order him to leave for the night. He gets stoned and comes back. Mother and children flee.

A police officer takes them to a shelter, arresting him the next morning. A shelter worker sees signs, which obliges her to contact Children’s Aid Society. The children are placed in foster care.

The landlord sees police cars and upset neighbours. The landlord begins an application to terminate tenancy due to the illegal act of damages to his property.

The social assistance worker is asked to re-direct the assistance cheque to the mother, but doesn’t know the young man had been working.

Social assistance levies a large debt against the family, and reduces assistance because the children are in foster care.

Rent falls behind while eviction proceeds.

 

What if…

…all the agencies that know about this family’s troubles could sit together?

…the child’s school referred the parents to some support?

…support or hope or counselling could help the father keep things in control?

…the police, crown attorney and duty counsel could divert the man from conviction to community service for the housing provider?

…the housing provider could hire him as a painter, after his community service?

…he could avoid a conviction and be so proud of his success that he opened a painting business?

 So, where do we start?

Community initiatives are always hard work. Justifying every nickel of funding is also hard work, because the results are very difficult to measure. How does one put a price tag on changing lives and changing communities?

In Rexdale, groups including the City of Toronto, youth crisis agencies, public housing providers, Toronto social services, Toronto Police Services and Rexdale Community Legal Clinic gather at the table. In this context, “coming to the table” is not just jargon. It is a weekly meeting!

Following the Saskatchewan model, the purpose of FOCUS Rexdale is first, to identify a person or family at high risk of:

  • gang activity
  • violent incident
  • criminal involvement
  • homelessness
  • suicide.

Often, there is a complex web of issues or a snowballing of events that create the high risk situation.

 

What’s on the table at FOCUS Rexdale?

When all the partner agencies gather behind locked doors, then what? Who will be the one to mention this family?

Maybe it will be someone from social services or a police officer who flags what has happened.  Or perhaps it will be the Youth Justice Worker at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic. She got a call from the father on the morning of his release. Duty counsel at the courthouse, after a short conversation with his wife, identified him as a person at extreme risk. The entire family unit fits this red-flagging measure when immediate intervention is needed.

Too often, the legal clinic gets called only when an eviction is looming, or a suspension from social assistance has caused enormous rent arrears to pile up, or when an eviction has already happened, or when a jail term has just ended. At Rexdale, special project funding allows us to be “at the table” and to be part of the change that is needed.

If all legal clinics could partner with all service agencies in this way, it would be the legal equivalent of distributing flu shots for free. It would stop the spread of the diseases of despair and crime and the cycle of poverty.

Ann McRae is the Director of Legal Services at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic.

 

CANADIAN HOUSING & RENEWAL ASSOCIATION Infographic

 THE CANADIAN HOUSING& RENEWAL ASSOCIATION is the national voice for the full range of affordable housing and homelessness issues and solutions.

HE CANADIAN HOUSING  & RENEWAL ASSOCIATION INFOGRAPHIC

HE CANADIAN HOUSING
& RENEWAL ASSOCIATION INFOGRAPHIC

 

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change: #InItTogether #MageItRight

We are launching a new provincial campaign to ensure migrant workers have the same rights and benefits as all Ontarians. For too long Ontario’s laws have excluded migrant workers. This affects us all. It’s time to #MakeItRight. We are #InItTogether.

Our first action is a Feast for Fairness on Saturday, October 12, at 1030am at St. Lawrence’s Market in Toronto.  More details..

All workers, including agriculture workers, should be protected equally under Ontario’s labour laws. All workers should be entitled to minimum wage and overtime. They should be able to enforce these rights without worrying about being too late or having to under-claim how much they are actually owed by employers.

Learn more…

All workers should be protected from being charged illegal and exorbitant fees by recruiters and agencies. Recruiters and employers should be registered, and the provinces and feds should work together with workers’ home governments to make sure that protection is effective across all borders.

Learn more…

Going home after work should be a relief but many migrant workers have no relief from the stress of work since they live at or near their workplace.  They deserve decent housing and this requires inspection, enforcement, regulation, and viable alternatives.

Learn more…

Farm workers need strong health and safety protections at work; domestic workers should be included in occupational health and safety laws; and all migrants should have immediate access to health services and other benefits that all Ontarians get.

Learn more…

Migrant workers need stronger protections to make workers rights complaints and proactive enforcement of their rights. Migrant workers should have the right to change employers and stay in the country for settlement or employment standards purposes.

Learn more…

Tell the Leaders of Ontario’s Provincial Parties that they must work together to ensure migrant workers have the same rights and protections as all other Ontarians.

Take action now!

     
Copyright © 2013 Migrant Workers-Alliance for Change, All rights reserved.

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change includes Alliance of South Asian Aid Prevention, Asian Community Aids Services, Caregivers Action Centre, Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario, Justicia for Migrant Workers, KAIROS, Legal Aid Windsor, Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Social Planning Toronto, Unifor, United Food and Commercial Workers and the Workers’ Action Centre.

Our mailing address is:

Migrant Workers-Alliance for Change

720 Spadina Avenue, Suite 223

-Toronto, Ontario -M5S 2T9

Canada

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Breaking the Cycle – Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy – Public Consultations

Breaking the Cycle - Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy

PHOTO: Ministry of Children and Youth Services

When Breaking the Cycle: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy was launched in 2008, it signaled a bold new vision for a fairer society.

In the first three years of the Strategy, the Ontario government has helped raise approximately 47,000 children and their families out of poverty despite a climate of global economic uncertainty.

The government wants to hear from all Ontarians to develop a renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy, including people who have experienced, or are experiencing poverty, experts in the field, the business community, and other levels of government.

We want to hear what matters to you. Your responses will help inform a renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy for Ontario.

This online survey is part of a broader conversation that is occurring across the province and will remain open until October 2013.

HAVE YOUR SAY BY CLICKING HERE AND COMPLETING THE FORM

“Ontario’s Housing Crisis is getting worse”, Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association

2013-02-07_13-57-21_984x

Ontario’s housing crisis is getting worse according to the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association’s recent report entitled, “Where’s Home”. The report concludes that the Provincial and Federal governments have effectively removed themselves from the business of providing affordable housing, leaving inadequately funded municipal governments and the market, which is fundamentally antithetical to providing non-for-profit housing, to provide affordable housing. The lack of affordable housing will deeply impact growth in the province, since the fastest growing sectors of the market remain low paying service industry jobs. Furthermore, if affordable rentals and homes are not available, Ontarians will be forced to take loans and enter into mortgages that they cannot afford, which could result in a US style mortgage crisis, an idea subtly echoed by Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman on his blog yesterday.

Read the full report and press release here:
http://www.onpha.on.ca/whereshome

Where's Home?

Toronto’s Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) Replaces Community Start up & Maintenance Benefit

As of January 1, 2013, the provincial government ended the CSUMB (Community
Start Up and Maintenance Benefit). While the benefits provided through HSF are
not contained in law (and hence not enforceable / appealable the way CSUMB was),
Toronto’s benefits are comparable in other ways. Some of the old criteria to qualify
still apply. That is, you must provide proof of your need up to the maximum allowed
and demonstrate financial sustainability (eg. if rental arrears are paid off, can you afford
the monthly rent). But the previous requirement that someone must not have received
CSUMB in the last 24 months has been dropped. In the case of ODSP recipients, total
income and assets will also be taken into account when assessing eligibility.

Toronto’s HSF is available to those on OW and ODSP to assist with:
• housing start up costs (first and last month’s rent);
• rental arrears to maintain affordable housing;
• a benefit for furniture / household furnishings;
• assistance with utilities arrears or start up;
• assistance to those who are transitioning from homelessness or a long term
residence or prison.
The maximum allocations for arrears, last month’s rent, furnishings are as follows:
• $800 for singles / couples;
• $1,000 for families with adult dependants;
• $1,500 for families with children.

There is some room for discretion to be exercised by workers based on ‘hardship’.
Someone on ODSP must be referred by their ODSP worker to OW for assistance from
the HSF, while a person on OW simply needs to raise the issue with their worker.
While a negative decision can’t be appealed to the Social Benefits Tribunal, if someone
disagrees with a negative decision, it can be reviewed by the supervisor. A negative
decision by the supervisor will be reviewed by the local office manager, but the decision
of the manager is final.

Excerpt from article by
Melodie Mayson
Co-Director
Neighbourhood Legal Services