City council will consider a number of changes to the way that the wait list for subsidized housing is managed in the wake of a report from the auditor general that suggests that 1,400 units are sitting empty each day.

There are currently more than 106,000 people on the city’s wait list for affordable housing but the recent report from Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler revealed that 13 per cent of those applicants are either no longer seeking housing or ineligible. The report said that the interest/eligibility of another 26 per cent of applicants could not be determined.

“Maintaining an accurate and current centralized rent-geared-to-income waiting list is key to getting people efficiently housed,” the report states. “When housing units become available, many applicants cannot be reached, do not respond, or decline offers. This slows down the housing offer process, and social housing units sit vacant.”

The report revealed that only 6,000 of 47,000 housing offers (13 per cent) made during the study period led to placements with 87 per cent of the unsuccessful offers resulting from staff either being unable to contact the applicant or the applicant being uninterested.

It said that the delay in filling vacant units averages out to two to three months and has created a situation in which approximately 1,400 subsidized units are sitting empty each day.

Because the city pays housing providers for rent-geared-to-income units regardless of whether they are in use, the report estimated that the vacancies cost taxpayers $7 million in 2018.

“On average, it took six offers to fill a vacant social housing unit. The more offers a housing provider needs to make before one is accepted, the longer it takes to fill a vacant unit,” the report notes. “Given the demand for housing, this funding could have been better used to help more households in need of financial assistance for housing.”

At today’s meeting, council will be asked to approve dozens of measures intended to speed up the process for placing tenants.

The measures include a new policy, wherein staff would review the applicants on the centralized waiting list at least once every 24 months “to ensure their information is kept up-to-date and to re-affirm continued eligibility for rent-geared-to-income assistance

Staff would also be directed to ensure that all applicants “understand the importance of choosing only those buildings they are willing to move into and the consequences of such choices.”

About three per cent of applicants on the waiting list are housed each year.

Romeo-Beehler’s report says that it can take two to 14 years for applicants on the list to be placed into subsidized housing.