Bill 140: Opening the door to TCHC privatization

By M. Lau & Diamond Wisdom

Timing was everything when it came down to Ford’s rush decision to dismantle TCHC’s Board of Directors and replace it with a one-man-operation, Case Ootes. The provincial government is currently working to passBill 140: Strong Communities Through Affordable Housing Act 2011. Bill 140 will enact the Housing Services Act 2010, and repeal the Social Housing Reform Act 2000. If Bill 140 passes, it will have disastrous consequences for those reliant on social housing in Ontario.

With over 300,000 names on housing waiting lists across Ontario—a list that can take up to 21 years to wait through—there is no mention of new funding to address the backlog of repairs or any plans to create more truly affordable housing stock.  One tenant told BASICS that she felt that the provincial plan for social housing was to let it crumble to the point where the city could use the excuse of “unmanageable deterioration” to justify privatizing management or selling off more of its housing stock.  For instance, while just a few months ago, the backlog of TCHC repairs was reported to be standing at $300 million, mainstream press recently began reporting that the number currently stands at $600 million.  It is unclear where these numbers come from as there has been no such transparent reporting / documentation of these numbers.  In any case, City Hall is trying to steer the crisis of social housing into support for privatization, as if that were the only solution.

Under Bill 140, the supervisory manager – now Case Ootes – will be given new powers to essentially do what he wants. Under Section 95(16), “The housing provider is deemed to ratify and confirm what the supervisory manager does during the supervisory manager’s appointment, but this subsection applies only to things done in accordance with this Act.” During this time, Case Ootes will be able to “carry on the business of the housing provider,” “to improve the governance of the housing provider,” and “to stabilize or improve the financial situation of the housing provider”—legal-speak for taking the wrecking ball to TCHC.

As it stands, Bill 140 effectively removes (the currently existing) provincial oversight in the selling off of local housing corporation assets. Under Section 161(2), “A person may transfer, mortgage or develop the real property only with the written consent of the service manager in whose service area the real property is located.” Under Section 162(2), “The housing provider may transfer or mortgage the housing project or the land where it is located only with the written consent of the service manager in whose service area the housing project is located.” Since the service manager of the TCHC is the City of Toronto, Bill 140 would effectively allow the City of Toronto to privatize / sell off the current stock of housing.

While the passing of Bill 140 paves the way for privatization, it fails to address the real crisis of social housing. For TCHC tenants, the Bill fails to address the systemic problems caused by the structure of the Corporation in alleviating poverty and truly helping to improve the lives of poor people across the city in an era of instability.It also fails to address existing issues such as punitive Rent-Geared-Income rules (which removes protection and increases the instability and stress of tenants transitioning into the workforce through unfair rent increases); lack of protection and fairness for tenants (for instance, in rent subsidy disputes or unfair evictions) due to a lack of an independent review process; a lack of inclusionary housing policies; the list goes on.

For non-profit housing providers, such as the 550 housing cooperatives across Ontario, Bill 140 would effectively remove the protections of these co-ops that existed under the Social Housing Reform Act 2000. The new legislation would allow service managers to take control of and potentially sell off co-ops under “a triggering event,” including if the housing provider accumulates a deficit that is “substantial.”

With a provincial election approaching for October 2011, it is not at all surprising that Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty has aligned himself with Toronto’s right wing mayor Rob Ford for a combined Provincial-Municipal offensive against affordable housing in particular and against working-people and the poor in general.

Working people are coming under attack from all levels. There’s never been a more important time for residents and working people to organize themselves against the “austerity” offensive.  The rich are getting richer because of the attacks being waged on working people and the programs they rely on. Tenants require a truly independent tenants’ organization to defend against privatization and advance the struggle, made up of and truly led by TCHC residents.

Contact tchc.residents@gmail.com to get involved in organizing.

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