Toronto’s increase in gun violence is undeniable. The province has decided to take action through a change in housing regulations. Now people who have been convicted of drug trafficking, assault, damaging property or gun violence will not be able to reapply for Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC).

It also allows for TCHC to reject an application for housing five years after the eviction – leaving reformed criminals in the lurch. But Toronto Mayor John Tory says it sends a message to “criminals” that they are not welcome in community housing.

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“This has been a longstanding request from the city to ensure that a tenant who is evicted for serious behavioural misconduct, such as drug dealing, domestic violence, or involvement with guns, cannot immediately apply for rehousing from Toronto Community Housing,” Tory said in a statement.

“We have a duty as governments to do everything possible to stop the misconduct of a small group of people who are disrupting the lives of law-abiding Toronto Community Housing residents.”

At a news conference on Monday, Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said housing developments — including the Toronto Community Housing Corporation — will now have the authority to develop their own policies and procedures on how they deal with prospective tenants. Critics have earlier pointed out that the risk factor in this initiative is the possibility of discriminatory practices.

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“We are allowing local service managers to make the determinations,” said Clark. “They are the people on the ground and they know the circumstances with their own building so we are allowing them to deal with the implementation of the policy. The cases that the City of Toronto had presented to us – there were existing tenants that were involved in violent criminal activity. They had been removed, then they had been rehoused in either that facility or a similar facility. It was something that they (the city) felt they needed extra protection by our government.”

Tory argued in favour of the new regulation – despite the fact that it might hurt individual people. He identified it as a necessary measure to protect the majority of the community within public housing.

“Our job is to protect the broader interests of the tenants and when you have an instance where somebody has been evicted for serious criminal behaviour, I think it is very fair and I thank the government for allowing TCHC to have the discretion to say no,” he said. “I recognize it could cause a problem for that person but it is one of those things where you have to put the wellbeing of many tenants first.”

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TCHC’s CEO Keven Marshman says that he wanted to ensure that law-abiding residents aren’t turfed from their homes if a member of the family who resides at the unit is arrested for a violent crime.

“With 110,000 residents in our communities, there are many situations that can present as a challenge,” says Marshman. On September 18th, 2019, Marshman spoke to CBC’s Metro Morning, to explain the reasons for the ban, noting it wouldn’t be a permanent banning situation.

“If people can be rehabilitated, I always believe in giving people a second chance.”

Toronto Community Housing will have to figure out what to do with those who have been convicted and served their time – and have decided to change their lives to make more positive choices.