Reflecting on the first five months of the Housing Unit
It was my great privilege to step into the role of Deputy Ombudsman (Housing) on July 31, 2023. Having worked at Ombudsman Toronto as an investigator in a past life, it has felt almost serendipitous to return to an office I believe in and begin building out our new Housing Unit.
Building momentum from the get-go
From our little office at the corner of University and Dundas, the Housing Unit’s mandate is to keep the City of Toronto focused on its goal of making sure its housing systems work better for everyone, especially those who are most vulnerable.
In the five months that I have been in this role, we’ve already:
- Hired our full Housing Unit team, a stellar group of investigators, public policy professionals, and administrative support.
- Launched the first investigation to come out of the Housing Unit, a review of the City’s response to refugee claimants and asylum seekers accessing space in the shelter system this past summer.
- Connected with over 30 external stakeholders, from members of Council to City of Toronto senior leadership to advocates and service providers in the community.
Listening to and learning from the public
I am proud of each of these accomplishments and dedication my team has put into that work. However, I’d like to draw specific attention to the last bullet—our community engagement. By prioritizing relationship-building and proactively engaging with people most impacted by housing precarity, we are actively choosing not to wait for problems to come to us.
Working together to make the city a better place
Before starting this role, I worked both in policy development and as legal counsel for the City of Toronto. This time spent on the other side of the accountability offices cemented my knowledge that there are brilliant City staff dedicated to developing evidence-based, trauma-informed housing policy and programs.
As our Housing Unit works to hold the City accountable on its commitment to ensuring that adequate housing is available for every person in Toronto, I know that any recommendations we bring forward will be brought to life by the expertise of the public servants who come to work every day ready to make the city a better a place.
The need for urgent action and accountability
The housing crisis has reached dizzying heights, in Toronto and across the world, with no signs of slowing down. Fixing it will take collaboration and funding from all levels of government. It will take innovative solutions and a commitment to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people in society. It will take a shift in public opinion, a re-calibrating of our society’s core values.
And it will take real accountability, which, done well, determines whether our governments’ actions are focusing on the needs of the people they serve, propelling us to take bigger and bolder steps towards the progressive realization of the right to housing.
Looking ahead with determination
As we close out 2023 and look ahead to the work of the Housing Unit next year, I am buoyed by the momentum that we’ve built in such a short period of time—we have only just gotten started.
Many of you may know I have just begun my parental leave. In my temporary absence, my colleague, Luke Brown, will serve as Acting Deputy Ombudsman (Housing). I have full confidence that this momentum will continue under Luke’s expert leadership, and I look forward to following the team’s great work with interest until my return.
In the interim, if you’d like to meet with the Housing Unit to learn more or let us know about an issue you think we should be aware of, I encourage you to reach out at email@example.com. Our team looks forward to hearing from you.