Toronto

Ontario to allow community housing agencies to reject tenants evicted for crimes

Ontario will allow community housing providers to reject tenants who have previously been evicted for criminal activity.

Move designed to make community housing safer, says Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark

Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark says the provincial government will allow community housing providers to reject tenants who have previously been evicted for criminal activity. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

Community housing providers who have evicted tenants for criminal activity will now be able to ban them from returning under new rules introduced by the Ontario government on Monday.

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark said the government has changed regulations and closed a loophole that allowed tenants who had committed "serious crimes" to return soon after being asked to surrender a social housing unit.

Clark said if a tenant is evicted for such illegal activities as drug trafficking, assault or damaging property, housing managers can now ban them from returning for up to five years.

Previously, a tenant could reapply to housing and often providers had little choice but to readmit them, sometimes to the same building, Clark said.

"Our government is sending a very clear message that dangerous criminal activity is not welcome in community housing," he said. "It puts our community and families at risk."

Toronto mayor approves of new eviction policy

The move fulfills a promise the Progressive Conservative government made in April to look at eviction policies as part of a broader community housing reform plan.

The provincial strategy also scraps rules that the government says punish tenants for working more hours or going back to school, simplifies how rents are calculated, and establishes an asset-limit test prospective tenants must pass.

Toronto Mayor John Tory says the change sends a message that criminals are not welcome in community housing. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

Toronto Mayor John Tory has been pushing for a new eviction policy for years and said the new measures will promote safety in community housing.

"No longer will these people be able to take advantage of this vital public service and make life less safe for others," he said.

Advocate questions where criminals will find housing

The executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations said the government must find a balance between protecting tenants and displacing people who are hard to house.

"The biggest issue is where are these people going to go?" said Geordie Dent. "At the end of the day [community housing] has always been looked at as housing of last resort. It's better that they go into housing than on the streets."

NDP deputy leader Sara Singh said the government's announcement does nothing to address the lack of investment in community housing across Ontario.

"This government has relentlessly cut support for the very programs that make communities safe and community housing livable," she said in a statement.

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said he supports Clark's plan but called for more action on addressing the root causes of crime, including "anti-poverty, social inclusion and anti-discrimination programs."