News

housing

Doug Ford’s changes to social housing eviction rules won’t make communities safer

Even a verbal altercation with a neighbour could give rise to an eviction order and a five-year ban from social housing, regardless of whether there is a criminal conviction

BY OCTOBER 5, 2019 10:26 AM

It’s a situation that could happen anywhere, but let’s say it happens in social housing in Toronto: two neighbours have a verbal dispute that leads to threats.

As of September 23, if you live in social housing, that situation could result in you being banned from having a home for five years – even if no criminal action is taken.

The Government of Ontario has given the green light to social housing providers (like Toronto Community Housing Corporation) to refuse applications from people who have been evicted in the last five years for an “illegal act” in a social housing building.

The province claims the move will protect “vulnerable seniors and children” in community housing buildings. But excluding people from social housing will only exacerbate the homeless crisis, and further punish Ontarians living with mental health, addictions and disabilities. It will make our communities less safe.
Ontarians living in social housing, in particular racialized residents and those living with mental health issues, are already over-criminalized.

For low-income people who get caught up in the justice system, banishment and exile from social housing represents an additional punishment that will affect them long after they have served their sentences.

Shockingly, Ford’s sanction could be used to deny housing to an entire family where one member of the household has been evicted for an illegal act in the past five years. Collective punishment is a repressive measure that only serves to destabilize already-struggling families and communities.

Take, for example, a dispute between two neighbours where threats are exchanged. That single verbal altercation could give rise to an “illegal act” eviction order, regardless of whether or not there is a criminal conviction.

That means the entire family, and anyone else on the lease, including their children, could be subject to the five-year ban.

A person with an opiate addiction rooted in chronic-pain management could be caught up by the ban even after serving a criminal sentence for simple possession, completing rehabilitation and receiving treatment.

For many, social housing is often the ”housing provider of last resort.” When a person gets evicted, they and their family members don’t just disappear. They may end up on the street, trapped in a cycle of survival and destitution that is almost impossible to escape.

Those evicted tenants become displaced from their communities and social supports. Those who are lucky take on market rents in substandard and precarious housing conditions.

Removing this critical safety net from people already stuck in a cycle of poverty will only further entrench the conditions that led to legal troubles in the first place.

Stable housing and appropriate social supports are foundational to safe and healthy communities. Nobody benefits when a person is sentenced to five years of homelessness.

The government must invest in policies and programs that help support Ontarians with mental health and addiction issues – not punish them. It must invest money in our crumbling social housing infrastructure, strengthen rent control and improve social assistance so that those in social housing have more power over their lives.

It must invest in policies that work instead of fear-mongering against those who need support the most.

Amy Slotek is a Toronto-area lawyer. Brendan Jowett is a staff housing lawyer at Neighbourhood Legal Services in Toronto.

*This article was reproduced from nowtoronto.com
https://nowtoronto.com/news/ford-government-social-housing/

 

 

News, Social Assistance

New data shows Ontario to deny basic needs to approximately 32,000 children

Re-posted from Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)

The Ontario government has introduced a law that will cancel the Transition Child Benefit on November 1, 2019.

With Ontario’s changes, families living in poverty who are ineligible for child tax benefits will experience a significant loss of up to $230 per month per child. A typical two-parent households with two children, for example, will see a 27% drop in their income from Ontario Works.

Only Ontario has taken this drastic measure that will deepen child poverty.

In May 2019 we reported on the Ontario government’s plans. Since then we have learned new details, including information about the people who rely on this benefit to feed and clothe their children. We are taking action.

Background

Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) provide very low monthly payments to impoverished individuals and families who have no other means to pay for their necessities. Monthly benefits include a “basic needs” allowance for adults (to cover necessities such as food and clothing) and a “shelter” allowance.

OW and ODSP do not provide a basic needs allowance for most children. Parents are expected to pay for their children’s necessities with federal and provincial tax benefits that together provide maximum monthly payments of around $700 per month for a single child.

Some OW and ODSP recipients are ineligible for tax benefits, mainly because of their immigration status. Currently, Ontario ensures that these families can pay for their children’s necessities through the Transition Child Benefit.

On November 1st, Ontario is cancelling the Transition Child Benefit, leaving low-income parents without money to pay for things like food, clothing, diapers and formula for their children. The only exception to the cancellation will be OW recipients who live on a First Nation reserve.

What have we learned recently?

ISAC asked the Ontario government to share information about the Transition Child Benefit. Our research has shown that:

  • The cut to the Transition Child Benefit will affect approximately 16,000 families with 32,000 children each month.
  • The Transition Child Benefit is a very small part of the social assistance budget, amounting to approximately $67 million each year, only 0.7% of the total cost of social assistance in Ontario. But because families who eventually qualify for the tax-delivered benefits have to pay back some of the benefit, the actual cost of the benefit is even smaller: $56.8 million.
  • Refugee claimant families make up 35% of the families who need the Transition Child Benefit to ensure their children have access to necessities.

The families who will be most impacted by the denial of a basic needs allowance for children are those who:

  • Are not eligible for the Canada Child Benefit because of their immigration status (such as refugee claimants and other migrants) and thus rely on the Transition Child Benefit long-term;
  • Are waiting for their Canada Child Benefit application to be processed (e.g. after the birth of a newborn);
  • Have had their Canada Child Benefit suspended pending a tax audit, a suspension that can last for lengthy periods;
  • Have not yet had their tax benefits adjusted after experiencing a drop in their income as compared to the prior tax year (e.g. due to job loss);
  • Are not eligible for the Canada Child Benefit because they did not file their income taxes for the prior tax year.

What is at stake?

 There is a lot at stake with the loss of the Transition Child Benefit:

  • Parents will be unable to feed and clothe children, undermining their health and causing lifelong consequences.
  • It will be more difficult for mothers to leave situations of violence because of financial dependence on their (and the child’s) abuser.
  • Indigenous and Black children are already taken into state care at vastly disproportionate rates on grounds of parental “negligence” concerns that are tied to poverty. By deepening poverty, the cancellation of the Transition Child Benefit will increase the risk that their children will be separated from their parents.
  • These kinds of impacts threaten engage a number of important human rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person; the right to be free from cruel and unusual treatment; and the right to equality.

ISAC has given notice to the government of Ontario that we intend to bring a legal challenge to the denial of basic needs for the children of social assistance recipients. To read our notice, click here.

If you are being affected by the cancellation of the Transition Child Benefit, you can share your story with us by filling out this form.

Many communities are taking action to save the Transition Child Benefit. Check our website regularly for updates. To print out a copy of this fact sheet, click here.

Note: This post gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation. For legal advice, please contact Kingston Community Legal Clinic at 613-541-0777.

Legal, News, Social Assistance

HOT TOPIC: Overpayment Recoveries

OW and ODSP Overpayment Recovery Rates May Increase From 5% to 10%

Background

The Auditor General has recommended that both Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) increase the amount they collect toward outstanding overpayments.

The law allows overpayments to be recovered by deducting 10% of benefits. However, previously overpayment recovery was usually set at 5%.

What’s happening?

OW and ODSP’s policy directives have changed, and caseworkers are expected to set the overpayment recovery rate at 10% when the cause of the overpayment is believed to be in the recipient’s control to have prevented.

I have an existing or new overpayment. What can I do?

IF YOU:

  • notice an increase of the overpayment recovery on your statement of assistance
  • receive a notice of a new overpayment
  • receive a letter from the Financial Services Office

THEN:

Contact Kingston Community Legal Clinic by phone at 613-541-0777 or by dropping by 345 Bagot Street.

 

Legal, News, Provincial Budget

Potential cuts to Legal Aid funding in Ontario could impact Local Community Services

The Provincial budget of April 11, 2019, calls for significant cuts to Legal Aid funding in Ontario. If these cuts are of the reported magnitude of 30%, it could result in a serious reduction in front-line services in the City of Kingston, Township of South Frontenac, and Township of Frontenac Islands.

The Kingston Community Legal Clinic provides legal services, education, and information to our communities, as well as helping our most vulnerable residents keep food on their tables and a roof over their heads.

“We are calling on the Attorney General, Caroline Mulroney, to make a commitment to access to justice, and to respect the commitment of her government to not decrease front line services, and to confirm that funding for community clinics will not be decreased” said Lenny Abramowicz, the Executive Director of the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario.

“We don’t yet know how this apparent cut will affect our local clinic. We will work with our communities as the impact on our services becomes known” said John R. Done, Executive Director of the Kingston Community Legal Clinic.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with information about our Community Legal Clinic services. Should you have any questions, please contact:

John R. Done, Executive Director, Kingston Community Legal Clinic

613-541-0777, Ext. 25

donej@lao.on.ca