A resident of City Housing Hamilton (CHH) says fellow tenants who are engaged as live-in building attendants for the housing corporation are themselves part of the problem of criminal activity and substance abuse that has plagued the apartment buildings at Hess and Jackson Street for years. Peter Llewellyn, who lives in the Vanier Towers at 181 Jackson Street West alleges in the most serious instance a CityHousing Building Attendant beat a new tenant so badly she was hospitalized and the attendant was arrested. In a recent memo to CHH Llewellyn further alleges the one of the building attendants sells contraband cigarettes to tenants; “CHH staff know this,” Llewellyn continues. “When he’s been confronted by staff about this they tell him to be more discreet. He’s been violating the Federal Excise & Tax Act for at least a decade. Another (BA) is a habituated dope smoker. No medical Marijuana License involved here. Stoned all day long every day and responsible for the safety of 500 plus tenants while intoxicated on duty.” Another building attendant who recently resigned was nicknamed ‘Six Pack’ by the security guards because she was either drunk on duty or incommunicado during her shift.” With regard to this employee, Llewellyn says she was unavailable when an insulin-dependant tenant locked himself out of the apartment. Unable to find anyone with a passkey a fellow tenant climbed balconies using a rope and was able to open the apartment from the inside.
Contacted by the Bay Observer, CHH Operations Manager Brian Kinaschuk acknowledged that criminal events take place in all parts of the city and CHH is “no exception,” adding, “we work closely with Hamilton Police Services and other Community Agencies to mitigate the impact wherever possible.” He pointed to the installation last year of a $750,000 quality security camera and monitoring system. “Currently, we monitor this site 24/7 with a security guard presence. In addition we have a dedicated security office located beside the front entrance door.” Llewellyn admits that the enhanced security has been useful, especially in helping police nab offenders, if not deterring them. As for Llewellyn’s allegations of sometimes illegal activity on the part of CHH building attendants Kinaschuk told the Bay Observer in an email, “there is no evidence to support any illegal activity being engaged in by Building Attendants that either I or the Property Manager are aware of.”
Peter Llewellyn estimates that roughly 10 percent of the tenants in his building engage in violent or illegal drug activity. “There is at least one on ever floor,” he says. He says it is worse around the corner at 81 Hess Street South. Both buildings house some seniors, but the majority are persons with physical disabilities, and mental health issues. When asked why CHH cannot just evict the troublemakers, Mr. Kinaschuk replied, “Today more than ever, it is difficult to secure an eviction. The reason for this is that housing options are extremely limited. Therefore adjudicators impress upon us to support tenants with as much accommodation as possible.” The Landlord and Tenant Act sets out some clear grounds for eviction, including:
* not paying the rent in full
* persistently paying the rent late
* causing damage to the rental property
* illegal activity
* affecting the safety of others
* disturbing the enjoyment of other tenants or the landlord
Under that interpretation clearly violent and criminal activity would be grounds for removal of a tenant. We also checked with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, whose Information Officer Vanessa Tamburro wrote “before considering evicting or sanctioning a tenant for disruptive behaviour, a housing provider should first consider whether the actions of the person are caused by a Code ground (e.g. a mental health disability), and should try to determine whether any mitigating circumstances (for example, harassment) are present.” But Ms. Tamburro continued, “It may be difficult to establish that criminal behaviour such as selling drugs is caused by a Code ground.” In other words, it would be difficult for a criminal to claim exemption from eviction because of mental illness or some other condition.
Llewellyn says he has been subject to threats and harassment because of his whistleblowing on staff and criminal tenants. He has filed a formal complaint under the Landlord and Tenants Act. That complaint will be heard at a formal proceeding on May 3rd.
CHH is a sprawling corporation – the third largest housing provider in Ontario–consisting of almost 7,000 units spread over 1,265 properties with over 13,000 residents. The CHH website says 45% of tenants are children, speaking more than 30 first languages. CHH’s annual budget is $45 Million. In its mission statement CHH says “We provide affordable housing that is safe, well maintained, cost effective that supports the diverse needs of our many communities.”
Written by: John Best