Sudbury Housing audited
City’s auditor recommends changes
The city’s non-profit housing corporation is due for a few updates, a recent governance audit has recommended.
City staff members recently completed an audit of the Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation and presented their findings to the audit committee this week. The governance audit focused on the oversight structures and systems in place within the housing corporation, including the structure and mandate of the organization; as well as an examination of the roles and responsibilities of the Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation and its senior leadership team.
The scope of the audit was impressive – it covered three years, from Jan. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2017.
“The key objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the design of oversight structures and processes,” a staff report notes. “As such, the audit was not specifically designed to assess whether the oversight processes are operating as designed and/or the outcomes generated by these oversight processes.”
The housing corporation is large. It manages thousands of units across Sudbury and generates millions in revenue.
“The (Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation) is the largest municipally controlled landlord in the city with 1,848 units that represent 39 per cent of the purpose-built social housing stock in the city,” the report indicates. “In addition, the (housing corporation) has entered into an agreement to administer rent supplement agreements in 553 units owned by private landlords. In the fiscal year 2016, the (housing corporation) generated $18.6 million in revenue, including $11 million in subsidy and rent supplement fees from the City of Greater Sudbury, and $18.4 million in expenses resulting in an operating surplus of $169,000.”
While staff found the Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation is generally well run and effective, Ron Foster, the city’s auditorgeneral, noted a few areas where improvements could be made.
For one thing, the operating framework is dated and requires a reboot.
“The manager of housing services completed an initial review of the declaration and advised the (corporation) of the review but to date no formal revisions have been completed and approved,” the report notes. The (Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation) was created in 2000. “Stakeholders from both (the corporation) and the city have indicated that updates to the declaration would be beneficial.”
Secondly, where councillors are concerned, the housing corporation is falling short.
“The city’s orientation process for new and returning city councillors does not provide sufficient content with regard to the role of the GSHC or sufficient context with respect to the role and obligations of councillors participating on the GSHC board,” the report states. “The GSHC’s orientation process for new board members does not provide sufficient context with respect to the duties and obligations of councillors as board members, in particular, the potential conflict between the interests of a councillor as a representative of the city and as a member of the GSHC board. …
“The monthly reporting package to the GSHC board provides significant information but a formal, comprehensive performance management framework – including specific key performance indicators – is not in place.”
Foster said Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation staff has agreed to work with city staff to improve the management framework and to ensure councillors know better what their roles are on the board.
“The city’s orientation processes for councillors should be updated to increase the content related to the GSHC and to focus on the general role and obligations of councillors when acting as board members of the GSHC,” the report said.
Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti was troubled by the lack of a work plan.
“It’s a little disturbing to see there hasn’t been a formal work plan or update since 2000,” he said. “I’m glad to see there are recommendations moving in the right direction because to operate under this format seems a little loosey-goosey, if I can use that term.”
Foster conceded the corporation’s stock “is aging ” across the board. He also said there is a need for periodic updates, perhaps every decade.
“I’m encouraged to hear there was agreement around the table that it was time for an update,” Foster said.
Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, vice-chair of the Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation board, said “operations are moving quite well,” but he too, admitted it was time for a refresh.
“I can tell you the GSHC is performing admirably under the circumstances with a very aging infrastructure,” he said. “We are looking forward to our portfolio review.”
To that end, the city is looking into recruiting a third party who will complete a review of the corporation.
“The City of Greater Sudbury has begun the procurement process of hiring a third party to complete an operational review of Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation,” the report concluded. “The operational review will assess the oversight processes and evaluate the effectiveness of the current organizational structure and reporting relationship.”