City report recommends replacing boards of affordable housing organizations
Published Wednesday, September 11, 2019 6:48PM EDT
Overhauling London's public housing system could see city council oust the board members of two housing agencies.
In a new report city staff recommends city council replace the boards of both London Middlesex Community Housing (LMCH) and the Housing Development Corporation by “appointing a member of civic administration to act as the board of both corporations, for an initial interim period."
Councillor Shawn Lewis believes it’s the best way to start tackling the housing crisis and a waiting list of almost 5,000 people.
"When you have an emergency you can't decide everything by committee.”
A report last month by audit firm KPMG criticized LMCH for taking too long to repair and rent vacant units. It added that the Housing Development Corporation hasn’t outperformed the job city hall could have done on its own.
City hall’s director of Housing and Social Services, Sandra Datars Bere, emphasizes that the new one-person board of directors would be an interim step until a path forward is developed.
"By putting an organization together and giving the city the leadership responsibility, we are actually hoping to be able to build better synergy and work closely with homelessness prevention.”
Lewis adds, “By putting it under a member of civic administration who is directly accountable to council, allows us to act very quickly.”
Chair of the LMCH board, Sean Quigley, did not respond to an interview request Wednesday, but last month said this about city hall taking over public housing: "What we'll have is the status quo, housing will remain the same, cost to pay at the city hall wage rate will only add to what is already a $450 million deficit.”
The size and membership of the boards are determined by city council. In recent years emphasis has been placed on “lived experience,” and Datars Bere admits that’s something a city appointed administrator would likely lack.
"That's a fair question, and I think part of the challenge for us in any of the work we do in the social system is [to] hear the voices of and have involvement of people with lived experience.”
Lewis adds that a tenant engagement program will continue, "We are still going to be asking people who are tenants in our public housing units right now for their feedback on things, I don't think it's robbing them of a voice.”
Council members will discuss whether to replace the boards and bring them under the oversight of a single city administrator, or alternatively take over board responsibilities themselves, at a special meeting on Monday.