Review of TCHC Eviction Practices
For 21 years Al Gosling had been a tenant of Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC), Toronto’s City-owned public housing agency. In May, 2009, TCHC applied to the Landlord and Tenant Board to evict him. They claimed that, because Mr. Gosling had not completed his annual review forms, he had lost his rent subsidy and had to pay market rent. Mr. Gosling was 82 years old and had no assets, so it was impossible for him to pay market rent on his Canada Pension and Old Age Security payments.
The Board granted the eviction request and ordered him to pay over $2,800.00 in four weeks or be evicted. When he was not able to pay, TCHC got the sheriff to evict him. He had nowhere to go, and lived in stairwells and emergency shelters until he was taken to hospital in October and died of an infection he had picked up while he was homeless.
Mr. Gosling’s death became a very big news story, thanks to Toronto Star columnist Joe Fiorito’s relentless pursuit of the facts behind his death. There were calls for a public inquiry into the policies and circumstances that led to this tragedy. TCHC responded to these calls by hiring Hon. Patrick LeSage, the former Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court, to conduct a review of these circumstances. He was asked to make recommendations about preventing unnecessary evictions of vulnerable TCHC tenants.
He held meetings with 300 to 400 tenants, TCHC employees, support workers and the staff of legal clinics, including ACTO. In May 2011 LeSage released his report which contains 81 recommendations for changes to TCHC’s policies, procedures and practices. Notably, he recommended that TCHC set up an independent office called the Commissioner of Housing Equity to settle arrears cases and to link tenants with community supports. In June, TCHC promised to act quickly on these recommendations and begin immediate improvements in a number of areas, but no independent Commissioner was ever appointed. However, ACTO, other legal clinics and tenant groups continue to speak out for changes that will protect vulnerable tenants in social housing.