City politicians want answers about costly, unworkable housing software

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City politicians are demanding a report into a boondoggle housing software that has cost taxpayers more than $362,000 over nine years, and delivered little.

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City politicians are demanding a report into a boondoggle housing software that has cost taxpayers more than $362,000 over nine years, and delivered little.

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City council voted Tuesday for a study, which will not be done until September, on the status of the collaborative housing initiative, an effort by eight communities including London to develop joint, custom software to administer social housing in those cities.

“This is costing us a lot of money and we have no product in hand,” deputy mayor Sean Lewis said at a city council meeting Tuesday.

“We have invested too much in this software. I have doubts.”

Count. Hadleigh McAlister questioned whether the city should continue with the program or cancel it.

But canceling the contract was not an issue before politicians Tuesday. Staff, in a report, recommended reporting to the council in September on the initiative and politicians voted to support that.

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Count. Elizabeth Peloza, who chairs the community and protective services committee, which received the initial report, wants to see the staff report on how it is working, before deciding on its status.

Some municipalities are using the software and London has the software and is doing an assessment of it.

“We have committed the money and I want to see what the staff has been doing. We have invested a fraction of other municipalities. I have questions but I also don’t have enough information yet,” to assess its usefulness, Peloza said.

Council heard from the staff of the city is using Excel spread sheets and Word documents to do the job now. The city cannot get its cash back if it does cancel its involvement, but the September report will include its full cost, staff said.

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As for what is wrong with the software, the report to the council from the community and protective services committee detailed issues, namely that it does not align with current technology and has not kept pace with regulatory and legislative changes in the housing sector, and having different communities working together “can be extremely challenging when creating a custom software product.”

In 2014, the city entered into an agreement with seven other communities to develop and implement a co-ordinated housing system. The software is intended to simplify the data entry and access to information on housing, funding, clients, assets and subsidies, with standardizing reporting templates to the province.

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“The proposed software was to be developed to manage housing waiting lists, rent supplements, provide a portal for housing providers, and provide reporting tools to simplify annual reporting to the province,” staff said in a report.

To date the software has been partially rolled out in Hamilton and Waterloo Region. One municipality, York Region, has dropped out of the consortium.

The other communities are Windsor, Chatham-Kent, Halton Region and Ottawa.

London has spent $362,000. In total, $2.6 million has been spent by all the communities.

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