03/27/2013 06:17 EDT | Updated 05/27/2013 05:12 EDT

City staff failed non-profit groups, ombudsman says

City staff increased the rent for several non-profit organizations without justification, according to a new report by Toronto's ombudsman.

The investigation involved the city's Below-Market-Rent (BMR) program — which enables non-profit groups to lease space at a lower cost and began after six groups filed complaints last February.

According to the city's ombudsman, Fiona Crean, six community groups were mistreated by the city's Real Estate and Facilities divisions as they were given estimates of a much higher cost than expected and with no explanation as to why.

"These non-profit agencies were treated very badly. Staff from the city's real estate and facilities divisions gave them widely varying estimates of pending rate hikes, never provided the increases in writing, failed to explain or justify the increases, and invoked harsher terms than those given to other agencies," Crean said in a release Wednesday.

"The six community agencies were met with a litany of failures by city employees. Staff repeatedly broke their promises and commitments to the agencies."

The report says that the rent hikes were up to 550 per cent above what they were supposed to be and that city staff made the increase retroactive — which caused the agencies to be more than $85,000 in arrears. The report contains 23 recommendations made by Crean, one of which is an apology from the city.