London, Ont., woman says housing co-op tenants threatened with homelessness

Jo Dee Phoenix received a letter under her doorway on May 14, but dated May 9, saying she had until noon on Fri., May 22 to provide necessary documents or she would lose her rent-geared-to-income subsidy, which allows her to afford her unit at Tolpuddle Housing Co-op.

The City of London says it’s communicated to housing providers that the deadline should be extended while the co-op in question said it’s heard no such thing.

“They’re threatening me with homelessness if I don’t do what they command and break federal and provincial directives to go out into the community to collect banking and income tax information,” Phoenix said.

“I will be homeless.”

The province announced March 16 that it is suspending all new eviction notices until further notice in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak that has infected hundreds across the country.

An email to Global News late Thursday evening from the province noted that while the annual review package deadlines have not been altered as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, some of the documentation requested by Tolpuddle is not required by law.

Phoenix also alleged that similar letters were sent to other Londoners receiving the RGI subsidy, which in most cases sets the rent at a subsidized unit at 30 per cent of a household’s total monthly income.

“It’s not just Tolpuddle Co-op we’re talking about. We’re talking about co-ops in London, and there’s many, that received that letter. So we’re talking about hundreds of people.”

Phoenix believed the deadline for the annual review package that she fills out to maintain the subsidy — which is administered and delivered municipally but governed provincially under the provincial Housing Services Act (HSA) — was extended as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, noting that among the required documents is her 2019 Notice of Assessment from the Canada Revenue Agency and that federal tax deadlines have been extended.

“Free tax clinics are not up and running. The library that has access to free computers and internet are, everybody knows, closed. So I’m unable to get the necessary information. So I can’t I physically can’t complete the annual review.”

Even the city seemed to be in a state of confusion over legislation, as an email from London’s Housing Access Centre to Phoenix on May 15 stated, “we are still checking to see what the legislation is regarding annual reviews.”

A spokesperson with the province confirmed to Global News late May 21 that there is no extension to the deadline due to the pandemic, but he also noted that not all of the documents the housing co-op is asking for are required by law.

“It is important to note that the HSA does not require that a Notice of Assessment… be provided as part of the annual review process and that the extension to the income tax filing deadline should not impact the annual review process,” said Conrad Spezowka.

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Earlier that afternoon, the City of London’s acting managing director of housing, Kevin Dickens, said “all providers have been asked to defer the annual review process until after the pandemic ends” and claimed that in this particular case, “subsequent communication allowing for a delay amid COVID-19 was never communicated to the tenants from the provider.”

However, Tolpuddle coordinator Stephanie Fizell told Global News “the traditional deadline is April 30 each year” and she has “received no additional direction in a change to the standard deadline.”

Tolpuddle has 132 units, 99 of which are occupied by renters who receive the RGI subsidy, according to Fizell.

It’s among 64 social housing providers the City of London works with, according to Dickens.

“We’ve been having bi-weekly meetings connecting through written correspondence as well with all the providers just to exercise patience, some flexibility,” Dickens said.

— with a file from Global News’ David Lao

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