Toronto Mayor Rob Ford appears to have succeeded in snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. Rather than wait less than three months for the facts and evidence about the best use of the city’s scarce affordable homes, the Mayor is determined to press ahead with an immediate sell-off – which will foreclose the possibility that any of the homes could be put on a sustainable footing. Stories in both The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail report that Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Kathleen Wynne has been forced to reverse her decision to defer plans for the quick sell-off of 65 mostly vacant affordable homes, as theWellesley Institute reported in our blog yesterday.
Last year, the board of Toronto Community Housing Corporation, the City of Toronto’s affordable housing landlord (and the second biggest social housing provider in North America) and senior staff were purged in an unprecedented political move. The replacement board then voted to sell off more than 600 single family homes to help pay for TCHC’s big and growing capital repair bill. With an all-time record 83,168 households on Toronto’s affordable housing wait list (the wait list has set a new record every month since the fall of 2008), Toronto City Council vetoed the sell-off and instead directed Councillor Ana Bailao to create a special working group which would report back to council in September on the single family portfolio. However, as a political compromise to secure the necessary votes, councillors voted to sell-off 65 homes that for various reasons were vacant. The Wellesley Institute wrote to Minister Wynne in mid-April setting out the policy and equity rationale for deferring the sell-off of the so-called vacant homes until all the facts and options could be considered by Councillor Bailao’s working group.
Mayor Ford reportedly pressed Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty directly to overturn Minister Wynne’s deferral, arguing that the net proceeds from the sale of the homes is urgently required to repair rundown social housing. In late April, when the City of Toronto announced its latest estimate for last year’s budget surplus was $292 million, Mayor Ford did not offer to allocate any of those spare funds to what he now calls the urgent need for repair or upkeep of social housing.
While the total assessed value of the vacant homes is $24 million, the actual amount that TCHC will realize will depend on market sales. Once the sales are complete, then TCHC will then have to deduct a number of costs and expenses, leaving a much lower net amount available for other purposes within the housing company.