It would be easy to point to the ongoing acts of violence and criminal activity, mainly drug-related, at City Housing Hamilton properties as some kind of Dickensian scandal, and indeed there are no shortage of areas for improvement; but the social housing sector is a very tough file. The one thing that all residents of CHH suffer from is poverty, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. The poverty can be a function of physical disability, mental illness, or just the bad luck of being old with nothing but the basic government pensions to rely upon. But somehow in the tenant mix we also get a cohort who are apparently able bodied enough to beat people up and terrorize them, and who are entrepreneurial enough to set up drug operations in the public housing buildings. Add to that the fact that the province sets up procedural roadblocks that make eviction difficult, or at least make CHH managers feel are difficult, and we have a situation that is soul destroying. Additionally there is not enough money to
provide housing for all who are in need, and there is also the problem of aging units that are vacant because there is insufficient funding to repair them. It appears the federal government’s infrastructure plans will provide some relief for repairs and renewal, but there needs to be a new approach to criminal activity by tenants. If we believe their printed guidelines, both the Landlord and Tenant Office and the Human Rights Commission, provide for eviction if there is criminal or even disruptive behaviour involved. Yet senior public housing officials report that it is almost impossible to secure an eviction; that they run up against provincial ‘adjudicators’ who thwart their efforts to make the buildings safer. Perhaps it’s time to test these policies a little more aggressively, by throwing these criminal elements out and then letting them appeal through the adjudication process. Even if they are ultimately successful in their appeals at least the public will see who is responsible for the failure of the system. Safety of vulnerable residents should always trump the misguided application of human rights to people who have forfeited their rights by virtue of the threat they pose.