Toronto City Council’s Executive Committee has rejected a request from its Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) Board of Directors to sell off 740 homes in 675 buildings, and is instead calling on Councillor Ana Bailao, chair of Council’s Affordable Housing Committee, to chair a special task force. The Wellesley Institute joined TCHC tenants and others in public submissions to the Executive Committee meeting on Friday.
TCHC is facing a capital repair bill that is estimated at $750 million this year, and is expected to grow in future years if nothing is done. The TCHC Board wanted to sell off the buildings (which provide homes to 2,200 low and moderate-income Torontonians) to raise some money, but even senior TCHC staff acknowledge that the dollars that may be realized fall far short of the amount required to resolve the big repair bill at Toronto’s municipal housing agency. The one-time money raised by selling off housing won’t address the structural funding issue.
Toronto Community Housing Corporation is the largest social housing provider in Canada and the second largest in North America, and provides homes to more than 164,000 low and moderate-income tenants. Much of the TCHC housing is in high and medium-rise buildings, but it owns about 900 ‘stand-alone’ buildings, mainly single family homes or townhouses, and most of them are in neighbourhoods where there is no other affordable housing. TCHC tenants, four former mayors of Toronto and most housing experts have opposed the sale.
Background information, including reports from the Wellesley Institute, are posted here.
In January, the Wellesley Institute proposed a small task force of housing experts, including TCHC tenants, to identify the range of options that will allow the housing agency to navigate to a sustainable future. Toronto media reports suggest that Mayor Rob Ford was initially cool to the proposal, but was convinced by Councillor Bailao of the value of the task force proposal. More recently, the Mayor was reported to be wavering on the task force proposal, but came back onside.
Meanwhile, the high-profile Ontario spending report from economist Don Drummond that was released on Wednesday also weighs in on social housing costs and opens the door to increased federal and provincial funding for Toronto’s aging housing stock.
In the report, Drummond acknowledges the critical roles of both the provincial and federal governments in funding social housing (including repairs), and makes a specific recommendation that Ontario negotiate a long-term housing funding deal with the federal government (p.443). He states that, “The province also has an ongoing obligation to help ensure the safety and sustainability of municipal infrastructure,” (p.444). He goes on to acknowledge that municipalities face big bills from crumbling local infrastructure, including housing in the next section of his report on municipal infrastructure.
Drummond’s views and recommendations related to social housing are particularly noteworthy, as most of TCHC’s 58,500 homes were downloaded from the federal and provincial governments without adequate capital reserves, which has created the capital funding shortfall that TCHC is currently facing.