Mayor Ford postpones TCHC housing sell-off again, special task force considered

For the second time in less than two weeks, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has postponed debate at Toronto City Council’s Executive Committee on a controversial plan to sell-off 740 affordable homes in 675 Toronto Community Housing Company buildings. He now plans to call a special meeting of the Executive Committee for Friday, February 17 after the item was bumped from the agendas of the January 24 and February 13 meetings. Dozens of TCHC tenants, housing experts and community leaders – including the Wellesley Institute – have registered to speak against the sell-off. The decision to pull the item from Monday morning’s Executive Committee was announced mid-day on Saturday in a letter from the committee clerk e-mailed to registered deputants.

The Wellesley Institute, in our written submission to Executive, has urged Toronto City Council to reject the massive sell-off of the city’s affordable housing stock, especially as Toronto’s affordable housing wait list set an all-time record of 82,138 households in December. Instead, we have called for a special task force of housing experts, including TCHC tenants, to chart a sustainable future for the city’s non-profit housing agency – which is the second largest landlord in North America.

Mayor Ford is reportedly ready to consider options to the wholesale sell-off of TCHC homes, according to a report in The Globe and Mail. Councillor Ana Bailao, chair of the city’s affordable housing committee, has met with the Mayor and plans for a special task force are reported to be under consideration.

Four former Toronto mayors have opposed the sell-off of TCHC homes. Ontario Human Rights Commission Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall has warned that the proposed sell-off may violate the Ontario Human Rights Code. A backgrounder from the Wellesley Institute from December, copies of the letters from the former mayors, and other background information on the proposed sell-off are posted here.

Toronto Community Housing Company provides a home to 164,000 low-income tenants throughout Toronto. Starting in the 1990s, senior levels of government downloaded aging public and social housing stock to the city without adequate capital reserves to fund repairs. TCHC estimates that the current repair bill for its housing stands at $750 million, and will grow by $100 million annually. While the federal and provincial governments have given some capital funding to TCHC in 2008 and 2009, the repair shortfall continues to grow larger. Housing experts have pointed to a variety of options ranging from innovative financing to additional funding from senior levels of government – which triggered the capital repair shortfall. The Wellesley Institute believes that a special task force is the best way to identify pragmatic options that don’t involve reducing the amount of desperately-needed affordable housing at a time of acute housing need.