Recently, Toronto Storeys reported allegations of bedbug infestations, black mold, soiled mattresses, faulty electrical outlets, child neglect and rampant drug abuse at the Lido Motel.
The Lido, located at 4674 Kingston Road in Scarborough, is one of four motels in the GTA subsidized by Toronto's Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) for homeless and refugee families and to accommodate overflow from shelters.
According to documents prepared for City Council's Economic and Community Development committee , the motels are awarded five year contracts with the City. From 2016 to 2020, the Alexandra Motel was awarded a net total of $1,000,000, Strathbridge Suites was awarded $1,700,000, the Lido, $5,540,000 and the Comfort Hotel, $6,554,019.
According to Toronto Media Relations and Issues Management, since first being awarded a five-year contract from the City of Toronto in 2011, the Lido has collected a total of $11,746,000. While in 2016, a second five-year contract was granted to the Lido by the SSHA for $4,040,000, last year, the value of that contract was increased to $5,540,000 . Meaning, in 2019, the Lido received $1,500,000 for a total of 68 homeless guests, or, an average of $22,058 per guest, per year.
That amount is almost triple the average cost of subsidized housing at an annual average of $6,500 per resident . It is almost quadruple the annual $5,964 in accommodation (i.e., rent) allowances for people on social assistance (Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support).
Although the contract between the Lido and the SSHA does not have a clause that specifically stipulates how much money must go toward maintenance and repairs, there are specific sections that speak to the vendor's obligation to " keep the motel in a good state of repair." The allegations made in Storeys' January article Bedbugs, Drug Abuse and Child Neglect: Living in Hell in the Lido Motel strongly suggest that the Lido is not maintaining this "good state of repair".
Toronto Media Relations and Issues Management has confirmed that the Lido (identified on the City contract as 'New Lido Inc') has a total of 70 rooms, between 54 and 68 of which are subsidized annually by the City of Toronto at a rate of $59 per diem. Which would put the City's subsidies between 75-95% of the Lido's total annual revenue.
Following the publication of Toronto Storeys' first article concerning the Lido, an individual purporting to be an owner of the motel reached out to both myself and Toronto Storeys' Director of Content. He was offered the chance to be interviewed for this story, but declined after being asked to establish his relationship to the Lido with proof of ownership.
The SSHA would neither confirm nor deny whether he is the, or an, owner of the Lido, stating that they "cannot provide private information". They did explain the terms of the contract follow City of Toronto Purchasing Procedures and that the process was "fair and transparent" and done through Request for Proposal (RFP).
The fact that the Lido receives three to four times as much money from the City per homeless guest as those in subsidized housing and on social assistance begs the following question:
Why are taxpayers funding a for-profit, privately run motel for more than $1 million a year when increasing subsidized housing opportunities and social assistance rates would be far cheaper?
The City's contract with the Lido, as well as with the Alexandra, Strathbridge, and Comfort, ends on December 31, 2020. Presumably, another private sector RFP for a five-year contract will be offered by the City sometime before the end of 2020. This would lead to another $5-$10 million of the SSHA's budget between 2021 and 2025 going toward keeping motels open that tenants allege are nothing short of infested, rundown cesspools.
Is this the best way for the City to tackle the housing and shelter crisis currently overwhelming Toronto? If so, another RFP does need to be sent out -- but one that's looking for better leadership.