The city of Toronto is currently experiencing a long, drawn out, almost year-long mayoral campaign.
But Chow has been dogged by allegations that, notwithstanding her humble immigrant roots, early in her political career she used her Toronto NDP socialist connections to score herself cheap affordable housing ahead of thousands of more deserving Toronto families in need.
Within hours of Olivia Chow announcing that she would be running for Toronto mayor, another mayoral candidate, Karen Stintz, issued a statement reminding Toronto voters that Chow lived in a taxpayer-supported subsidized Toronto co-operative apartment from 1985-1990, and especially from 1988-1990, when Chow’s family income was approximately $120,000.
The inference is that, due to her humble background, she cannot be accurately accused of representing the downtown elites or being an elitist herself.
With the greatest respect to Ms. Chow, I believe the facts point to a different conclusion. I maintain that in 1985 Chow joined the ranks of Toronto’s political elite to which she has been a member for nearly 30 years and coincided with Chow securing a much sought after, below Toronto market rent unit in the federally subsidized Hazelburn Co-Op Apartments.
To accurately assess the full measure Chow as a mayoral candidate, it is critical that the facts of Chow’s residency in the Hazelburn Co-Op Apartments, from 1985-1990, be fully disclosed.
Let me take you down memory lane to Chow’s Hazelburn Co-op Apartment issue of 1990, to ascertain why Chow’s past questionable conduct raises questions today about her character and her suitability as Toronto mayor.
On June 14, 1990, Star reporter Tom Kerr revealed that Olivia Chow and Jack Layton had been living separately in the taxpayer-supported, federally subsidized Hazelburn Co-op in downtown Toronto (Dundas/Jarvis area) since 1985. And in 1988, after their marriage, they had moved into a three bedroom apartment there and were paying $800 per month in allegedly market rent, notwithstanding that their combined family income was approximately $120,000. At that time, Chow was an elected public school trustee and Layton was an elected Toronto city councilor. (Source here and here)
In a subsequent June 21, 1990 Star article, Kerr confirmed that this 72-unit Hazelburn Co-op was subsidized by Canadian taxpayers through the federal Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which provided the Co-op with a 2% mortgage which cost the Canadian taxpayers about $405,000 per year. The assumption being that actual market interest rates were considerably higher and hence annual interest payments would have been $405,000 higher, which would have translated into higher monthly rents per unit to cover the higher interest payments. (Source)
According to the June 14 Star article, commencing March 1990, Chow and Layton voluntarily paid an additional $325 per month to offset their share of the co-op’s Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation subsidy, the only members of the co-op to do so.
According to the same article, Chow and Layton, subsequent to the June Star articles, left the Co-op in June and bought a house in Toronto’s Chinatown.
Chow and her supporters have tried to bury this story for years under spin and half-truths.
The popular rationale, then as now, is that Chow was paying market rent. Her unit was not subsidized by the taxpayers.
But corpses and skeletons—poorly buried—have a tendency to resurface with a vengeance.
And the stench can be overpowering, as potentially in this case.
Chow acknowledged through her own conduct that she paid a monthly amount of $325 as her portion of the CMHC subsidy, in addition to the monthly rent of $800.00.
But this CMHC subsidy issue raises further questions.
It is agreed that Chow had been a resident of Hazelburn Co-op from 1985 to June 1990. So Chow has been the beneficiary of her portion of the $405,000 annual CMHC subsidy from 1985 to March 1990.
Assume her portion of the subsidy was 1/72 of $405,000=$5,625 per year for 5 years. So that Chow had been subsidized by taxpayer money for approximately $28,125.
Furthermore, based upon my own experience of downtown apartment living in Toronto in the 1980s, actual market rent for a 3 bedroom apartment, even in the Dundas/Jarvis area, was considerably higher than $800 per month, and perhaps closer to $1,000-1200 per month.
I believe that Chow’s claim that she was paying actual Toronto apartment market rent at $800 per month is questionable and subject to further scrutiny and investigation.
I also do not believe in coincidences.
The public exposure of Chow’s living arrangement in a tax-subsidized co-operative apartment was clearly embarrassing to her as evidenced by her departure from Hazelburn Co-op within a month of the Toronto Star expose.
This matter was also embarrassing for Chow because Chow had always held herself out as being sympathetic to the marginalized and homeless in Toronto and those Toronto residents desperately seeking and needing affordable housing.
In the 1980s, as today, there was a lack of affordable housing and there were long waiting lists for such housing.
Olivia Chow, with her combined family income of $120,000, had many more housing options than those Toronto residents below or just above the poverty line ($20,000 per year) or even middle income residents ($40,000-60,000).
No matter how many ways Chow tried to spin it, the Hazelburn Co-op was not intended to subsidize $120,000 income earning families.
In effect, public opinion, then, as now, holds Chow—the defender of the poor and the downtrodden—of taking allegedly through her political and personal connections a subsidized unit that should have gone to Toronto residents more deserving than Chow.
The writer of the blog referring to the latter Star article made a similar point:
“Until everyone can enjoy a housing subsidy, they must go to those who need them more. A problem with any form of government spending on housing is that people with connections tend to grab them rather than for those they were intended or who need them more.
It does not look just curious, it looks bad. But I think the Laytons eventually got the message and moved to private housing. “
This housing scandal strikes right at the core of Chow’s character and suitability for mayor.
Chow has publicly lectured Mayor Ford to face up to the truth and take responsibility for his actions. Ms. Chow should practice what she preaches.
To date, Chow has never apologized for allegedly jumping the queue and allegedly using her connections to secure a 3-bedroom apartment in the Hazelburn co-op, notwithstanding the huge waiting list for such housing by more deserving Toronto families.
Furthermore, to date, she has never explained or apologized for taking advantage of taxpayer-funded CMHC loan subsidy, notwithstanding her family’s income of $120,000.
This is not an isolated incident., but I believe part of a pattern of behavior throughout Chow’s political career of double dipping and living large on the backs of the Canadian taxpayers. (Source here and here)