City council is making changes to ensure seniors or people with disabilities who rent aren’t left out in the cold.
Oshawa offers an annual snow clearing assistance program to help residents with removing snow off their sidewalks.
The service is offered to residents who meet specific criteria laid out by city staff.
At the latest meeting of community services committee, Ward 5 city and regional councillor Brian Nicholson explained under the program’s rules, seniors or those with disabilities who are renters did not actually qualify.
Nicholson noted when the program was created there likely wasn’t many seniors renting in singe family dwellings.
He said there could be situations where a landlord isn’t properly clearing snow, and a tenant would be required to file a complaint with the city. It’s a step Nicholson believes many renters wouldn’t take as to avoid conflict.
He said such a complaint allows a three-week window for compliance.
“I don’t think anyone wants a senior or someone who is disabled to be stuck in their homes for 21 days while their landlord comes into compliance,” he said.
Nicholson also explained the Ontario Humans Rights Code forbids municipalities from creating services that disclude certain members of senior and disabled populations.
Mayor Dan Carter agreed and moved that the service be extended to renters for the upcoming winter season.
However, a recent third party audit of the city’s finances by MNP LLP suggested the city consider other options for the snow clearing program, such as an income level criteria.
Ward 5 city councillor John Gray noted some hesitation to support Carter’s motion when further changes to the program may be forthcoming.
Carter said he just wanted to make sure people were getting the assistance they need as the winter months set in.
“This is in front of us right now, can we please look at this particular item and help these people now,” he said.
Ward 3 city councillor Bradley Marks asked if the city was turning renters away from the program.
Commissioner of community services Ron Diskey said it does happen, but service requests are usually handled on a case-by-case basis and some renters receive it.