Toronto City Council voted on Tuesday to reject the proposal to sell off 740 of Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s (TCHC) affordable homes in 675 buildings and has instead adopted the plan, put forward by the Wellesley Institute, to create a special commission to help Toronto’s social housing agency navigate to a financially secure future. This is a big win for TCHC tenants, and for all of Toronto.
TCHC is facing a capital repair bill that it estimates at $750 million. The proposal for the mass sell-off of TCHC homes gained momentum last spring when the entire TCHC Board of Directors was purged, along with senior management. The new board opted for a plan adopted in a number of US cities to use proceeds from the sell-off of public housing to finance repairs. Inevitably, this causes a downward spiral of shrinking affordable housing availability, as more units need to be sold to finance ongoing repairs year after year.
An ongoing drop in the number of affordable homes would have disastrous consequences for Toronto at a time when the city’s affordable housing wait list is at an all-time record of 82,138 households.
Councillor Ana Bailao, chair of Council’s Affordable Housing Committee, will head the special TCHC commission. TCHC tenants, academics and community housing leaders will all be part of the engagement and consultation process over the next 188 days until the task force reports back to City Council.
A large portion of TCHC’s current fiscal woes were caused by senior levels of government when they downloaded aging social housing to municipal administration without providing adequate capital reserves to pay for their maintenance and repairs. The Ontario government (in 2008) and the federal government (in 2009), did pass down some capital repair funding, but far short of TCHC’s needs.
In mid-February, the Drummond Report on Ontario government spending added a powerful voice to the call for the federal and provincial governments to pick up their fair share of the cost of maintaining existing affordable homes and building new ones.
Facts and options in sell-off of TCHC homes (June 2011)
Selling off affordable homes bad for Toronto’s health (November 2011)
Drummond report calls for increased spending on housing (February 2012)