City moves to stop renting TCHC units to previously evicted “criminal” tenants

April 26, 2017

In the midst of Toronto Community Housing units being closed down and tenants being relocated, an item was brought before city council to allow the social housing corporation the discretion to prevent tenants involved in “criminal activity or an illegal behaviour” from renting again. The intention of the recommendation was unclear and it did not give any details for how it would be implemented, but it was regarded by councillors as a positive first step under Mayor John Tory’s leadership.

On Wednesday, Toronto city councillors said certain TCHC tenants are notoriously known to be involved in gangs, commit gun violence, and be in involved in prostitution in TCHC units. Currently, even if the tenant was previously evicted, they can still rent again. This recommendation aims to take a step toward changing that.

Councillor Norm Kelly was on the original TCHC Board. “Criminal behaviour and the violence associated with it constituted the achilles heel of social housing here in Toronto, and I would hope in supporting Mayor Tory’s initiative, especially as amended by him, that we will have taken an important step in stabilizing many of our TCHC communities,” Kelly said.

The problem for the organization is that their lawyers don’t always have the evidence they need to evict tenants. “The landlord and tenant board is a court unlike any other,” said Graham Leah, vice-president of asset management for the TCHC. “As the landlord we have lawyers on staff who bring forth and make our case. We are successful some of the time but some of the time we are not.”

The city’s solution is for TCHC to stop renting to certain tenants already evicted for serious criminal activity, update the trespass guidelines, and give TCHC Special Officers the ability to gather information from Toronto police about tenants’ offences on TCHC property.

“Currently, under the legislation, a social housing provider can successfully evict a tenant for criminal activity. But if they reapply for housing, we have to accommodate,” Deputy City Manager Giuliana Carbone told council. “The recommendation is that the legislation be amended so if we have successively convicted someone for a criminal activity or an illegal behaviour they cannot automatically ask to be rehoused. We would have the discretion to not rehouse them.”

The original motion asked for allowing “social housing providers the discretion to refuse to rehouse a tenant who has already been evicted for behavioural misconduct.” Mayor Tory brought an amendment that replaced the last two words with “serious criminal activity through an N6 application.”

TCHC staff explained that an “N6 application” refers to serious crimes, but that ultimately the decision not to rent to a tenant would be discretionary, on a “case-by-case, fact-specific” basis, TCHC lawyer Mark Johnson said. Evictions would be due to criminal activity. “Significant things. Things pertaining to drugs. Things pertaining to guns. Things pertaining to very violent crimes,” Johnson said, also giving examples of minor behavioural misconduct. “A minor assault. Robbery of a small quantity. Something that the police would deem to be minor.”

Councillor Ana Bailão said the city still needs a mechanism to deal with these types of people. “We cannot build a wall around Toronto and send all the people with a criminal record outside. We’re going to have to deal with this as a city.”

Following questions from councillors on constitutional issues, the motions passed unanimously.

A detailed report explaining the recommendations is expected in June.