The Housing Again Bulletin, sponsored by Raising the Roof as a partner in Housing Again.
A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are doing to put housing back on the public agenda across Canada and around the world, sponsored by Raising the Roof as part of the Housing Again partnership.
News for December, 2003
Bulletin now featured at sharedlearnings.org: A Site with Practical Tools for Front-line Agencies
The Bulletin now has two homes on the Web. We are proud to be a feature on the new Shared Learnings Web site at sharedlearnings.org. This site is also available in French at www.liaison-itinerance.org.
The mission of the new site is to provide a home on the Web for frontline workers, managers and volunteers to share the practical tools, resources and information about the innovative projects and strategies that have worked in their communities.
The site was launched by Raising the Roof in October. Project manager Deborah Hierlihy is asking that community agencies visit the site to ensure they are listed correctly in the directory. She also wants agencies to tell their stories and let her know about any expertise or ‘How-to’ resources they’d like to share with other front-line agencies through this Web resource.
“We are looking for initiatives that contribute to long-term solutions to homelessness and that can be used as models by other agencies,” she said.
Currently, the site offers a resource on capacity building for Street Outreach work and a guide for non-profits on how to pursue private partnerships. In addition, over 400 organizations are listed in the directory and 32 initiatives from across Canada are profiled on the site.
The site began with project funding from Canada’s National Homelessness Initiative and has ongoing funding support from Direct Energy.
Community Spotlight: Group challenges NIMBYism on the basis of Human Rights
When Toronto’s Houselink received $5 million in provincial funding in 1999 to create 100 supportive housing units for people with mental illness, it had reason to be optimistic. But then, after the organization found some buildings to refurbish, it had to go through the community consultation process.
What followed is a scenario familiar to many front-line social workers. It made Houselink executive director Peggy Birnberg angry enough to launch a group to push for changes to the community consultation process.
“We had a couple of extremely hostile meetings where people ignored the zoning variance questions before them and focused instead on “who are these crazy people who are going to live in the building.” said Birnberg. “They were calling the people we house ‘pedophiles and killers’ -- things that were completely unfounded and discriminatory.”
A community member took Houselink to the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board). The non-profit had to get funding support from Health Canada to hire a planning lawyer and experts to appear at the hearing. This delay cost Houselink close to five years -- the project has only recently been given the go-ahead.
“When it was over, it became really clear to me that ‘people zoning’ has no place in the planning process,” said Birnberg.
So, she took the issue to her board and hooked up with Brigitte Witkowski, Executive Director of The Supportive Housing Coalition, (another non profit facing similar NIMBY attacks on efforts to develop housing) and consultant Paul Dowling. After networking and seeking the advice of experts from many different sectors, the group created the Homecoming Community Choice Coalition, a forum to address the Not-In-My-Backyard brand of community resistance. (NIMBYism)
Dowling, who is the project manager for the coalition, says the group has touched a nerve because pretty much every expert and high profile organization the coalition has approached has signed on or agreed to help out.
The group has already met with senior bureaucrats who focus on the City of Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy. At the meeting, they made their case that anti-discrimination work is a necessary part of the planning process.
“The City has a clear policy -- that it will not discriminate or countenance discrimination-- and yet we have these meetings, at the demand of the City or a counselor, where people say things that are blatantly discriminatory. And, the only person who feels an obligation to respond is the proponent of the project. So it appears that there are two parties battling it out. There is no independent third party to ensure the City’s policies are adhered to,” said Dowling.
While the senior bureaucrats didn’t promise to ‘get right on it,’ says Dowling, they did recognize the coalition’s way of seeing the process.
The group also presented a brief to City Council during Toronto’s new official plan process. And, Homecoming has been building networks. Recently, it linked the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and the ‘Dream Team’ (mental health survivors and their families) to support an organization that was taken to the OMB by its neighbours for trying to expand its supportive housing program. The supportive housing project won the appeal.
Work on this issue is also happening at the federal level as Human Resources Development Canada’s Homeless Secretariat is holding sessions with city councilors and senior staff about community process issues.
2003 National Housing Report Card: Five ‘D’s’ and Failing Grades for the Feds and Provinces
Well, it’s report-card time again and the National Housing and Homelessness Network (NHHN) doesn’t have much nice to say about this year’s federal and provincial affordable housing efforts.
Back in November 2001, when they signed the National Affordable Housing Framework Agreement, the Federal, Provincial and Territorial governments agreed to fund about 32,000 new affordable homes.
Two years later, according to the NHHN’s findings, about 7,500 of those units have been launched -- most of these are in Quebec. The NHHN says there is a commitment to build less than 1,200 units in the rest of the country. To make matters worse, many of the new homes in Quebec and across Canada are not affordable to low-income households.
As a result, the NHHN has given Quebec and Saskatchewan a D+ (Comments: Making an effort but still much work to do),while the federal government earned a D (Comments: Why isn’t it getting tough with the provinces?) as did Manitoba (Comments: A handful of good initiatives but very short of its goal).,British Columbia scored a D-(Comments: Some announcements but one set of needy tenants is gaining at the expense of others).
The rest of the provinces received an ‘F.’
The NHHN is calling for:
More money -- specifically the One Percent Solution -- which adds up to $2 billion in annual federal funding with a matching $2 billion from the provinces and territories.
More accountability -- To make sure the money goes to build truly affordable homes and the program has a mechanism for the feds to by-pass unwilling provinces and deal directly with willing municipalities.
An Emergency Housing Summit -- For the Federal, Provincial, Territorial Housing Ministers to meet immediately and iron out the jurisdictional roadblocks to new affordable housing.
Notes from Policy Options Forums on Rent Regulation, Ontario’s Tenant Protection Act and Social Housing Reform Act Now Online
The Centre for Urban and Community Studies has been holding Policy Options Forums in part to provide Ontario’s new Liberal government with some community input on its ambitious goals to scrap the Tenant Protection Act and build 20,000 new affordable housing units over the next three years. So far, the forum has focused on rent regulation, the Tenant Protection Act and the Social Housing Reform Act.
Ontario Throne Speech Received with Optimism by Housing Advocates
While it was short on specifics, and on funding information, housing advocates reacted optimistically to Ontario’s Throne Speech. The speech reiterated some important election promises including more affordable housing, improvements to second-stage housing for victims of domestic abuse, new rent control legislation and help to create a new deal for cities.
Pictures from Liberal Leadership Convention Housing Rally are up on the Web
While the Federal Liberals crowned Paul Martin as their new leader, housing advocates convened outside to remind him of his 1990 housing promises. If you missed the action, you can see the pictures. Photographer John Bonnar has posted his shots from the day on the Web.