Q: How was the Rupert Coalition Formed?

A: A group of people who worked in the areas of housing, public health and community outreach met shortly after the fire to discuss how such disasters could be prevented from happening again. They formed the coalition and presented the Ontario government with a proposal for a pilot project that would:

    1. Create and upgrade non-profit rooming houses.
    2. Upgrade existing for-profit rooming houses.
    3. Provide support for rooming house tenants.
    4. Monitor the quality of existing rooming houses.

Q: What did the government provide?

A: The Ontario Ministry of housing provided funding for non-profit housing through its existing non-profit housing programs. $2.4 million in forgivable loans were made available to private housing providers through the Low Rise Rehabilitation Program.

The Ontario ministry of Community and Social Services provided $4 million for support services, monitoring, per diems and staff salaries.

The City of Toronto Housing Department also provided support through its Alternative Housing Subcommittee and the Private House Committee, now called the Rooming House Working Group.

Q: What were the elements of the pilot project?

A: There were five housing models within the project.

 Small 'non-profit' houses in which support services were provided by the landlord.

    1. Small 'non-profit' houses in which support services were provided by an external agency.
    2. Large 'non-profit' houses in which support services were provided by an external agency.
    3. Small 'for-profit' houses in which support services were provided by an external agency.
    4. Large 'for-profit' houses in which support services were provided by an external agency.

A team of architects, engineers, city housing officials and inspectors worked to renovate or upgrade 26 different sites, 20 non-profit and 6 for-profit. In some cases houses were renovated to create rooming house units. In existing rooming houses, the changes included cleaning and painting, installing fire doors and sprinkler systems, upgrading kitchens or creating additional kitchens in large houses, installing new locks on doors and mailboxes, and furnishing common areas. Once a private rooming house was brought up to standard, the landlord received a per diem of $5 per occupied room to maintain standards.

Housing workers who visited the houses regularly provided the support services. They helped resolve landlord-tenant issues or conflict between tenants, helped tenants apply for welfare and appropriate government programs or get access to necessary medical or legal help. In one large rooming house they held a weekly breakfast to help tenants become well aquatinted with each other and begin talking about their support needs. They also helped tenants deal with individual problems such as shopping or managing money.

Q: What did the pilot project achieve?

A: About 500 units of housing were created or upgraded to meet or exceed the already existing standards of the City of Toronto. The housing worker's and monitoring staff noticed that in addition to the improved physical standards in the houses, tenant health improved, turnover and evictions were reduced, tenants felt more secure and had more control over their own affairs, and conflicts between tenants and landlords were resolved more quickly.

Q: What has happened since then?

A: The pilot project ended in early 1994. The provincial government required the coalition to return the interest on funds that had occurred during the term of the project. The small amount of funding that remained went towards some public awareness projects and an investigation into the situation in rooming houses after support services and monitoring ended. This study found that many of the improvements sustained after the housing workers stopped visiting the houses.

On June 28, 1995, the newly elected conservative government announced a moratorium on government funding for non-profit housing creation.

On July 20,1995, the provincial government announced its plan to cut welfare rates. As of October 1995, welfare rates dropped 21.6 percent.

In January and February 1996, four homeless men died on Toronto's streets.

On June 17, 1998, the so-called Tenant Protection Act came into effect. The Act made eviction easier, abolished the Rental Housing Protection Act, removed rent control for vacant apartments, and gave landlords the right to refuse to rent to low income tenants without being subject to Human Rights appeals.

On September 16, 1998, two people died in a rooming house fire at 1495 Queen Street West. One of the tenants has been charged with setting the fire deliberately.

For more information, contact:
The Rupert Rooming House Coalition

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