London Council is ready to ditch developing software

The financial fallout is much worse than originally thought, as City Hall is considering abandoning the development of custom computer software after 12 years.

In 2011, London, Ont. decided to lead an 8-community Collaborative Housing Initiative (CHI) to oversee the development of specialized software to track social housing applicants and programs.

The intention was to replace a combination of Excel, Access and Adobe PDF files used by most social housing organizations at the time.

It would also maintain housing waiting lists and prepare reports to the province.

But a dozen years later, only Hamilton and Waterloo Region have partially rolled out the software.

To date, neither the backend system nor any of the software modules have been implemented by London City Hall.

According to a previous report to the council:

  1. The software is not aligned with technology and project management processes in the IT department
  2. Development of provincial regulations over the years would have required significant change requests
  3. Partner municipalities have different systems and priorities

After the software debacle was revealed earlier this year, the city council called on staff to do a detailed accounting of the project and to recommend next steps.

The first update to the council’s Community and Protective Services (CAPS) committee reveals that civil administration grossly underestimated the economic impact on the city.

In May, the civic administration initially reported contributing about $360,000 to the CHI partnership between municipalities.

In reality, London spent almost triple the amount.

A detailed financial review has determined that London spent $1,244,681 on the project since 2014.

After deducting $210,334 recovered from CHI partner municipalities, London’s net expenditure has been $1,034,347.

Asked if the public would be right to view the situation as a ‘boondoggle’, Coun. Elizabeth Peloza responded to CTV News: “When things fall through, the public absolutely has the opportunity and is justified to ask if it was a boondoggle. To ask, ‘What happened?’ Those questions will be answered.”

Peloza will chair next week’s CAPS committee meeting.

The need for software that can track housing applicants and programs remains, but City Hall may soon cut ties with the expensive and inefficient project.

According to the report, work to support the software implementation will be “paused while an overall project plan is developed, including an assessment of other potential solutions for London’s business needs.”

“We also have 60 partners who would need residential software. Check in with them to see what they would need,” Peloza explained.

In addition, the municipalities’ partnership will be terminated in 2024.

Membership of CHI included Windsor, Chatham-Kent, Hamilton, Halton Region, Region of Waterloo and Ottawa.

York Regional Council left for unspecified reasons in 2022.

“All existing financial obligations related to the Housing Partnership Initiative will be closed out and any existing contracts will not be renewed,” the report reads.

The CAPS committee will consider the update on CHI at its November 14 meeting.

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