TCHC residents shun skilled trades over housing fear: Union

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A local carpenters’ union is concerned about quits by apprentices recruited into Toronto’s subsidized housing – saying a provincial rule forces apprentices to choose between pursuing a career and securing their families’ homes.

Paul Daly, president of Local 27 of the carpenters union, says he has repeatedly seen apprentices – who enter the trade through a targeted 14-week pre-apprenticeship program that recruits specifically from among residents of the Toronto Community Housing Corp. (TCHC) – resign suddenly after their first full year.

They had hired a retention consultant to probe the issue, Daly said, and learned it came down to housing rules. While the Ontario government is exempting some training programs from rent-geared-to-income calculations – meaning any money earned during a resident’s training cannot affect their family’s housing allowance – l apprenticeship in carpentry is not one of the exemptions.

These exemptions, depending on the province, only apply to programs related to certain schools.

Daly said many interns who were still living with their families in community housing had quit for fear their earnings would push their household income above a threshold where their housing subsidy could be reduced or revoked.

“It’s frustrating,” Daly told The Star.

When the province decided during its last term to exempt certain apprenticeships from the subsidy calculation, the idea was to help residents of subsidized housing pursue education and training opportunities, the gatekeeper said. -speaker of the Ministry of Housing, Conrad Spezowka.

But the exemption was limited to training affiliated with colleges of applied arts and technology, private career colleges and other specific educational institutions, Spezowka explained.

The carpentry program was affiliated with the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades, he said – it did not fit the parameters, meaning any income would still be counted against a grant.

Daly wants the province to change that.

He recently raised concerns about the program with Toronto City Council. Mike Layton, who said he intended to raise the issue with City Council and ask for help in asking for a provincial change.

“It seems like something that could be pretty easily fixed,” Layton said.

The city and TCHC, in a joint statement, said they were “fully supportive” of any initiative by Queen’s Park to help TCHC tenants access “meaningful” employment opportunities – noting that many many young residents were hesitant to seek training or skilled trades employment opportunities for fear of losing housing or rent assistance.

Provincial spokeswoman Zoe Knowles told the Star it would be ‘inappropriate’ to say whether further changes to grant rules were under consideration until a new cabinet was chosen for the nascent second term. progressive conservatives.

Yverson Belotte is currently an apprentice carpenter in Toronto. He does not have grew up in communal housing, but had a modest childhood, raised by her mother in Scarborough after arriving from Haiti. At 25, Belotte felt inactive when she was offered a place in another 14-week pre-apprenticeship, which turned into the same five-year apprenticeship as the TCHC program.

For the 29-year-old, the apprenticeship was a game-changer. “I can help my mother. I can provide for my son and his mother. I am able to support myself,” he said.

After several years of training, he thinks one day of starting his own business. But he also saw friends drop out, including those recruited from TCHC communities.

Daly, the union’s president, said their data shows that 80% of apprentices who reach their third year of training stick it out. Ideally, he wants interns to reach at least the three-year mark before their income is included in the grant calculation – a sort of grace period, which he hopes will result in fewer young Torontonians having to hand in their resignation.

“They just wanted an opportunity,” he said.

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