Toronto The City is about to lose control of public housing, warned a coalition of tenant, community and labour organizations at a news conference at City Hall today.
Council is rushing through this merger that will create the largest landlord in North America, affecting some 160,000 tenants a population the size of a city, said Josephine Grey, tenant spokesperson from Low Income Families Together (LIFT), THC, commenting on the Citys handling of the merger of the Toronto Housing Corporation (THC) and Metro Toronto Housing Corporation to form the new Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC).
If the proposed governance model is adopted without closing loopholes in the shareholders agreement, there will be more homeless people in Toronto and the housing crisis will get worse, said Sandy Nimmo, chairperson of the City-wide Tenant Council.
The coalition released a list of principles that should guide the new corporation and offered suggestions to fix loopholes in the proposed shareholders agreement, a document describing the relationship between the City, as owner, and the new TCHC. As it currently reads, the agreement would undermine the Citys ability to meet its responsibilities for public housing and open the door to privatization and franchising in Torontos social housing system.
Recommended principles are: 1. Housing is a basic need and a human rights obligation under international law. 2. Social Housing is a public service that should be publicly administered and publicly delivered. 3. Social Housing is intended for low and moderate-income tenantsthere must be no loss of affordable units. 4. Resident-driven participation in decision-making is key to successful delivery. 5. The City should appoint an independent housing ombudsperson. 6. The new Housing Company must be accountable to Council.
The MTHC is not your typical private sector landlord, said Suzanne Kelly, president of OPSEU Local 592, representing staff at MTHC. Staff deliver programs that support some of the most vulnerable people in Toronto people who can least afford to live under a private sector landlord and who are most at risk of becoming homeless. With 64,000 families on waiting lists, the need for social housing in this city is clear. As a vital public service, the newly merged housing company must not be used to privatize housing, jobs or discontinue social programs.
This is all part of an agenda by certain right-wing councillors to allow the private sector to take over city services not just housing, but water and other vital public services, said Brian Cochrane, president of CUPE 416, Toronto Civic Employees, representing workers at both THC and MTHC. Theyre setting the table for a corporate Tupperware party, where corporations will be invited to run public services and line their pockets at public expense.
Individuals and groups will lobby councillors to include the recommended principles in their governance model for the new Housing Corporation. They will demand Council close loopholes that allow privatization and franchising, lead to lower service levels and the sell-off of units, and undermine public accountability.
The public elected politicians to protect and improve public services, not to carve them up for a corporate buffet, said CUPE 79 president Ann Dembinski, representing Toronto inside workers and staff at THC. The draft shareholders agreement for the new corporation provides no accountability to Council a thirteen member board with only four councillors and two tenant representatives is not accountable.
For further information, please contact:
Josephine Grey, LIFT THC
Bill Guthrie, CUPE 416
Suzanne Kelly, OPSEU 592
Tim Maguire, CUPE 79
Robert Lamoureux, Communications