Friday, December 10, 2010

Crime, rent arrears spike at TCHC sites

Serious crime spiked in the last three months on Toronto Community Housing property while arrears rose over $4 million and evictions dropped.
According to the TCHC performance scorecard for the third quarter of 2010, there are some red flags the board of directors need to tackle when it comes to crime and failure to pay rent.
“Serious crime” on TCHC property rose in the third quarter of 2010 with 105 incidents, up from 48 in the second quarter and 70 for the same quarter in 2009.
Meanwhile, compared to 2009, evictions from TCHC property are down 51% while the number of households in arrears climbed to 5,755, up 11% from the same three months a year earlier.
Those troubling statistics will be up for discussion on Monday at the final meeting of the current TCHC board before new city councillors take over in January.
Outgoing board member Giorgio Mammoliti told the Sun it appears to be a free-for-all when it comes to paying rent.
“We have basically educated our tenants in letting them know they don’t need to pay rent,” Mammoliti said.
As for the spike in crime, Mammoliti said he’s curious to know if the buildings where violence is on the rise are the same ones that told TCHC not to let Toronto Police in.
“Some buildings, mostly in the downtown core, decided not let the police in (to enforce the law),” Mammoliti said.
Councillors Maria Augimeri, Frances Nunziata and John Parker, three of the four councillors joining the board, declined to comment until they had been briefed on the corporation, and the report card.
TCHC spokesman Jeffrey Ferrier pointed out that among serious incidents, there is one less incident year-to-date when compared to last year.
The board has aimed for a 5% or greater reduction in the overall volume of crime but for the first nine months of the year compared to the same period last year, crime dropped only 1%.
“As anticipated, the summer months shows significant increase in serious events. Again, gang activities, particularly in the West Toronto communities, is a strong factor in the increased firearm activities,” staff state in the report.
The fact household arrears have spiked isn’t surprising, Ferrier said due to “difficult economic times” and the LeSage report which delivered more than 80 recommendations on how TCHC should handle evictions and reinforcing the message that the corporation should “do everything in (its) power to keep tenants housed.”
Although TCHC has more than $4 million in outstanding rent, Ferrier said keeping people housed is a matter of fairness and saves the more costlier expense of shelters having to house evicted tenants.
With around one in 10 household not keeping up with its rent, Ferrier said TCHC does try to work with them to broker a solution but he disagreed with Mammoliti that it is open season when it comes to paying rent at a TCHC property.
“The reality is that they do (need to pay rent) and if they don’t our business is not sustainable,” he said.
He said as a “last resort” the corporation will apply to evict a tenant.

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