City of Opportunity II – I speak as a Londoner

I must begin this post by stating clearly: I  AM IN NO WAY REPRESENTING THE OPINION OR POSITION OF ANY ORGANIZATION OR GROUP AND THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE AND ON THIS WEB SITE ARE SOLELY MY OWN AND ARE NOT ENDORSED BY ANY ORGANIZATION OR GROUP

Councilor White in the previous Blog Post to this asked a question at the beginning. She asked ” Will you kindly clarify your comment about the Glen Cairn Centre? Are you speaking for them or as the Emerging Leaders, ED?”  Respectfully I have never claimed publicly nor privately to speak for Glen Cairn Centre or on behalf of Emerging Leaders who is my current employer. I ask Councilor White that when she called my previous employer and current employer Friday to complain about me was she speaking as a City Councilor or as someone who works for Children Aid Society or as a Private Citizen? Does she represent the City of London Council when she handles a CAS case? Does she represent CAS when she speaks at council? Or is she or any other Londoner allowed to speak out when they see something they disagree with?

I have never once spoken on behalf of Emerging Leaders or Glen Cairn Centre here or on Facebook, and would never do so, without express permission. The problem becomes when this happens it has a chilling effect on free speech and citizen engagement. But so be it, I can not be silent, even if it has personal consequences for me and my family.

Councilor White and the Mayor have made some points in defending their position. But the heart of the matter remains and while both of them and others have direct experience with people in poverty and Londoners with mental health issues so do I both within my family and amongst many friends. I have advocated my entire life both privately and publicly on behalf of those who are most often left behind because it affects my life and the life of my City, Province, and Country.

Mayor Fontana had posted the following in response to the outcry on the cuts to affordable housing, he did this on Facebook and I post it here unedited and in it’s entirety:

With a reduction in the contribution into the Affordable Housing Program, we will be shifting our approach to affordable housing. Right now there are a number of vacant units out there and a lot of individuals and families who need them. Instead of focusing on building all new units, our focus is shifting to filling existing units and entering into public private partnerships to convert exisiting spaces (like commercial space no longer being used as commercial space) into affordable housing. It’s a different approach, but it’s still a good approach and we will be able to increase the number of people we can help. London has done incredible unique things and we will continue to do so.

Affordable HousingThe reduced funding for the Program will result in a strategic shift from creation of a maximum number of permanent units to an emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term.Changes were made to legislation January 1, 2012. The New Housing Services Act repeals Social Housing Reform Act and gives the City of London as Service Manager more flexibility and discretion within local rules.This will give our housing experts the needed flexibility to create new housing policy and new housing programs based on the needs of Londoners, moving away from the previous prescriptive approach set out by the province.This shift in strategy is designed to achieve greater efficiency in using the City’s housing funds: 
• Families and individuals will have access to housing. While fewer permanent rental units will be created, the number of families who can quickly be accommodated in short term housing will be more than doubled. 
• The City can leverage the same amount of federal and provincial funding. 
• Jobs continue to be created through construction and renovation projects. 

Working within our funding, we will be using a combination of:
• convert to rent units (increase)
• creating more short term rental supplements (increase)
• home ownership program
• building new affordable housing units (decrease)

Affordable housing right now means keeping people in their homes.”

I think there are a couple of key points here to pay close attention to and to understand more fully and to seek clarification on.  I notice in this post the Mayor states ” a strategic shift from creation of a maximum number of permanent units to an emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term.” . Notice some important words here?  An emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term? This will mean an increase in temporary housing and not permanent housing.

It’s important to note this as well: “While fewer permanent rental units will be created, the number of families who can quickly be accommodated in short term housing will be more than doubled. ” .  Fewer rental units and more short term or temporary housing.
What we need to recognize here is that we are in every case reducing the number of permanent homes as a means to achieve a 0% tax increase. We also need to understand there is an 8+ year waiting list for permanent housing and while moving more families into temporary housing may be attractive in the short term we will in fact be delaying the issue at the expense of those most vulnerable and  sadly who is to say that that temporary housing budget will be there in a year or 3 years or 5.
We also need to understand the economic as well as the human impact of this cut. Abe Oudshoorn ,a recognized voice in homelessness and housing issues, wrote in his blog “this means that the $1M cut to the Housing Reserve Fund represents a potential $8M loss, or at $140,000 per unit, 57 units of affordable housing not built.  Each new unit also represents 2 person years of full-time employment.
Abe goes on to say ” affordable housing represents a much cheaper way to house people who are experiencing homelessness.  Housing an individual in shelter costs $1,450 per month, jail costs $140 per day, psychiatric acute care costs $650 per day, and acute care inpatient over $1,000 daily.  These statistics are clearly outlined in your Council-approved London Community Housing Strategy.  Therefore, putting money into housing up-front saves us much greater costs down the line.You can read the whole post here
Councilor Joni Baechler wrote on her Facebook page ” In My Opinion
Some members of council indicated they support the cut in Affordable Housing by $ 1Million because of the “Mayor’s plan” presented to committee yesterday. To be clear, there was NO plan presented. The Mayor simply outlined how he would divert the Affordable Housing $’s. What may have been missed by some councillors was the “KEY MESSAGE” from staff on the briefing note which states: “The reduced funding from the Program will result in a STRATEGIC SHIFT from the creation of a MAXIMUM number of PERMANENT units to an emphasis on creating shorter term TEMPORARY housing MEASURES”. The plan presented is a significant divergence from the Council adopted COMMUNITY HOUSING STRATEGY. Staff DID NOT recommend the budget cut in this area.As a result of this cut, we will not be able to leverage the same $$’s in order to meet our housing targets ($20 M in municipal housing dollars has leveraged $140 M from other sources). We will construct 75 less units per year which results in the loss of 72 associated jobs. The “temporary plan” does not address the housing crisis as year after year we will fall further behind.The cut to Affordable Housing is permanent. It will temporarily solve a fiscal shortfall on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable in our community
Important in what Councilor Baechler states is that Staff recommended against these cuts and that we will not be able to leverage these dollars and we will construct 75 less units per year.
So despite assertions to the contrary we are left with the same terrible loss at the expense of those that can afford it the least, but if we can focus and share our concerns with Council and the Mayor for just one week ,as so many on twitter and email and by phone have, then maybe, just maybe, we can convince a thoughtful Councilor or a thoughtful Mayor to change their vote and end this tragedy and begin to create a city of opportunity for everyone.
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7 thoughts on “City of Opportunity II – I speak as a Londoner

  1. Very balanced and policy based analysis – I am troubled that such a significant shift in policy direction was undertaken in the context of a budget cutting exercise, without a full staff report on the impacts of the change. This is a complex issue worthy of very thorough and sober deliberation, and at the very least an open consultation with stakeholders who will be directly impacted by the policy shift. Councillors who voted to move in this new direction are free to do so – they have tough decisions to make at budget time – but they should not be suprised if the community interprets the rationale to be one of ‘doing what it takes to get to 0’ instead of a ‘well considered strategic shift’ when the shift does not appear to be well considered or strategic. I hope that the Council puts a pause on this decision to hear from their staff, community organizations, citizens, and those with lived experience – I am certainly willing to pay a bit more tax next year to give our policy makers more time and space to come to the best decision rather than the most expeditious one.

    I don’t claim to know what the best direction is – I look to those who are experts in this area – but as a guy who does know a thing or two about good governance, I hope that all of our councillors can confidently say they have taken the time to listen and act upon the best advice they can find.

    Thanks for adding to the conversation Sean – I know that all of the dialogue over the past few days has put a focus on housing issues. We’re lucky to have guys like you who are willing to stick their neck out. I hope those who see this policy issue differently than you will explain their position more fully. The mayor has made a start, but more perspectives would help those of us who are trying to understand the Council’s decision understand and come to our own conclusions.

  2. So, there is really no plan in place for any sort of housing temporary or permanent, is there? There are no partnerships and no agreements. It is basically off-loading the costs of an ill-considered tax freeze onto the most vulnerable people in the city. Cowardly is the word that comes to my mind.

  3. I was shocked by this decision. I agree with Gina. I have hope that the council will reconsider this decision. I am a senior on a fixed income and I would be willing to have a slight increase in taxes to go toward more permanent housing for those who need it. End fluoridation and save $133,000 and more. Bryna Warshawsky said twice at the Public Participation meeting that fluoride only works topically. Why put it in the water at all much less use hydrofluorosilicic acid which has no safety studies on long term use?

  4. Outrage! Joining a growing list of shameful things in this City of Opportunity. Swan’s vote for this is a disappointment! And doesn’t he Chair the committee?

  5. I don’t know who you are, but you need to report Ms. White’s behavior to the governing body of her profession. She’s completely out of line.

  6. I’ll be at City Hall outside between 4-5pm on February 28th at City Hall to peacefully yet loudly “Keep the $1 million per yer in Affordable House!” – I’m sure I won’t be alone.

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