Criminals banned from social housing could end up on the streets, councillor warns

The Progressive Conservative government's plan to ban convicted criminals from social housing will cause almost as many problems as it solves, suggests one Ottawa city councillor.

Last week, the provincial government announced its new Community Housing Renewal Strategy, which would see $1 billion invested in repairing and expanding community housing.

The plan would also allow housing providers to refuse tenants who have been previously evicted for criminal activity.

While some may welcome the ability to keep troublemakers out of affordable housing communities, Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury says the government needs a solution that's "comprehensive, from the courts to supportive housing to addictions treatment."

Fleury, the chair of Ottawa Community Housing, said a convicted criminal who can't access community housing is likely to end up in an already crowded emergency shelter — or living on the streets.

He called the situation a catch-22: affordable housing communities don't want tenants who "create havoc in the building," but putting them in a shelter means "they're not getting better."

Ottawa Community Housing is already allowed to kick out a tenant for criminal activity and prohibit them from returning to the same building or community. 


No right of refusal

The province's plan will also no longer allow those on the housing waiting list to refuse to accept a unit.

In Ottawa, people applying for rent-geared-to-income housing can currently select where they want to live and the kind of place they want.

They are allowed to receive three offers, and they sometimes refuse the first one or two. That can leave empty spaces while those individuals make up their minds.

"I think it will certainly reduce some of the administrative burden that occurs when multiple offers are being made and people refuse those offers," said Shelley VanBuskirk, the city's director of housing.

However, VanBuskirk said the city is waiting to see the details of the province's housing plan to understand how the "nuances" around the new rules will affect prospective tenants in Ottawa.