Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Reality and Illusion

The problem with communication ... is the illusion that it has been accomplished.

Some time ago, another tenant came to me and asked if I would help him get some answers to a problem he has had with Ottawa Housing. He explained the problem to me. It appeared, at the time, as relatively easy to fix so I said "Sure!"

Well here it is, almost a month since I wrote that first letter and we are still awaiting a comprehensive answer.

The Initial Problem:

Find out why the rent review keeps moving up. That is, why does a rent review, which has always occurred at the same time every year, inched forward over the past few years. Inched might be a bit of an understatement - it has moved forward by 7 months.

The Present Problem:

Initially we approached Sophie at Housing - she signed the increase notification.
Her response was to sent a long, letter of explanation which did not explain the time differences. It explained the money which is not the problem.

Ottawa Community Housing Corporation

4 \ Société de logement communautaire d’Ottawa

1 1365 Bank Street, Ottawa, Ont K1H 8K8

Tel: (613) 249-0458 Fax: (613) 249-0472

February 19,2009

First name YoungerNoMore

000-2100 Russell Road

Ottawa, Ontario

K1G 3W7

Dear Mr. YoungerNoMore

As per the letter that was sent to us regarding your rent calculations and our previous conversation, here is written explanation:

Back in 2006 your rent renewal date was November 2006. Your rent calculation was done in July /06 and resulted in an increase by more than $10 therefore your rent increased on the 1 of the second month after the change. Your rent was increased to $***.** on September 1, 2006 therefore your rent renewal date changed to September 2007.

Back in 2007 your rent renewal date was September 2007. We received your information in April /07 and resulted in an increase by more than $10 therefore your rent increased on the 1 of the second month after the change. Your rent was increased to $***.** on June 1, 2007 therefore your rent renewal date changed to June 2008.

Back in 2008 your rent renewal date was June 2008. Your rent calculation was done in February /08 and resulted in an increase less than $10 ($***) therefore your rent renewal date remained the same (June


In 2009 your rent renewal date was June 2009. Your rent calculation was done in February /09 and resulted in an increase by more than $10 therefore your rent increased on the 1 of the second month after the change. Your rent will increase to $***.** on April 1, 2009 therefore your rent renewal date changed to April 2010.

Yours truly,

Sophie Laurin

Housing Administrator

South Division Office


The question is and was, why did the date change? Why was it moved forward? Not once but three years in a row? This letter does not answer the question.

So I called her hoping for

The Solution

What I got was transferred to Al. Al called Mr. YoungerNoMore. He read him the letter. He could have saved his breath - Mr. YoungerNoMore and I both know how to read. Then he called me and laid the "It is Confidential" trip on me. This, in spite of me including all manner of confidential information I could only have if it had been given to me and the verbal declaration from Mr. YoungerNoMore to Al that he had asked me for help. Then he told me that Mr. YoungerNoMore understood. So why then does Mr. YoungerNoMore say he does not understand at all? Maybe because the question - Why do the dates keep moving forward? - has not been answered!

There were raises in the Old Age Pension and CPP prior to 2006, but the rent review under the Province's system still only occurred once per year. Now, for Mr. YoungerNoMore at least, rent reviews occur at a varying times each the year. The City and OHC, it appears to me, have changed the system but not made their changes comprehensive to the clients, particularly to the seniors - or something. I can only guess as I cannot find anyone to explain their system to me. It is unbelievable to me that a group of adults, putting together this system, gave no thought whatsoever to the fact that seniors came here from all walks of life, have varying amounts and types of education, and sometimes are set in their ways. They often need clearer explanations of complicated matters such as finance changes. Worse yet, OHC has people working for them who are unable to explain these changes, people who work by rote and not out of understanding of either the work they do or their clients.

A Word About the Seniors

Most of them arrived here when 2100 was still a Senior's Residence. They like this place. It was designed for their type of life - nice tidy apartments with beautiful grounds, a lounge to get together in and do the sort of things seniors like to do complete with the security that a senior needs to have. Play cards and Bingo, grow tomatoes, have a club. Then along came OHC and, through misrepresentations and manipulations, or so it appears, they took away the seniors' peace and tranquility. First they asked if they could move immigrants in. No problem! Then they started moving patients from mental facilities in and drug addicts. Problem!

Then they stopped caring about the building. There is no longer a live-in Building Manager. In fact, the Building Manager we have is seldom seen anywhere on site outside of the Maintenance Room and then for only as long as it takes to give the workmen their instructions for the day.

There is no longer a club - perhaps the one thing that is sorely missed by the seniors. Instead there is a very poor excuse for a Tenant's Association. Mostly it is made up of the seniors of old and a few others and does a lot of the same things the Club used to do. So for the Seniors, at least, it is not a total write off! Five short years ago, the building was relatively well run. It was clean and well maintained. We had a great gal (social worker) from Options Bytown in our sister building who was here; she was reliable; she was helpful.

Now we have a building that is dirty; it is not well maintained (and that is not meant to be a negative pronouncement against the Maintenance Men - they are now maintaining three buildings and they are having to do the same work over and over again because the drug addicts keep destroying things). We have seniors, almost seniors, immigrants and little children, all, for the most part decent tenants. But we also have drug addicts who destroy concrete things like the walls, windows and carpets. They also destroy the feelings of being secure and safe as well as our sleep at night. Our mail is stolen, our bulletin board is trashed almost daily, they are always bumming money and cigarettes. They leave their trash in the halls and on the walkways around the building. Their very being here is a threat even when they are not pantomiming slashing throats and pulling triggers. Our public washrooms have to be kept locked - the druggies use them to inject themselves and then leave their needles lying around for the kids and unsuspecting oldsters to pick up.

And I haven't even mentioned the odd paranoid and bipolar person who is put up from time to time. Those we are left to find out on our own about. And we have!! One gent was found in the hall without any clothes on. Another told everyone that OHC had spies put here pretending to be tenants just to keep track of him. He looked at each one of us as if we were a spy. And we cannot go to Options Bytown to chat about our problems anymore. The new gal does not seem to have much of an understanding of us or any interest in us either - she is seldom there. This is a life??? The life the seniors and later, others were promised when they moved in here??? I do not think so!

I keep hearing how much money OHC is throwing our way. That is nice! BUT, you can throw all the money you want. As long as you do not take a stand on drug addicts and criminals, it is wasted money. Here is a novel idea - Let the Criminal Justice System take care of the criminals they turn loose; let the Mental Health Departments take care of the mentally ill - even if it is just to see that they take their meds once here - they used to do that. How about a building just for druggies? Why destroy the lives of decent people in 200 or so buildings if you can put them all together in their own building(s)? I rather suspect that one of these days Ottawa will be known as 'Little Vancouver' where the drug addicts have pretty well taken over the City.

Back to Mr. YoungerNoMore's problem.

How about two separate systems - one for those on pensions and one for those working? Or how about someone at OHC that can explain the present system so that it is comprehensible to one and all. I think I know the answer to Mr. YoungerNoMore's question but it is not my place to guess. And part of that guess is that you have taken a relatively simple procedure and turned it into something so convoluted that even you cannot explain it. Me thinks you need to put your heads together and come up with

a. a better procedure or
b. a better explanation of the present procedure

Shame on you Ottawa Housing Corporation for being so inconsiderate to our seniors!
I hope for you all that when YOU become seniors, you do not run into types just like yourselves.

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