Putting People First – the final report of Councilor Ana Bailao’s affordable housing working group – puts the brakes on plans for a massive sell-off of Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s affordable homes and, instead, sets out a practical set of recommendations to preserve and enhance virtually all of the housing. Last year, after an unprecedented purge of the TCHC board and senior management, the plan for the massive sell-off was proposed to help cover a large and growing unfunded capital repair bill at the city’s social housing agency.
“After six months of investigations and consultations, the Working Group believes that putting people first must be central to the transformation of TCH,” reads the final report of Clr Bailao’s committee. “The Working Group believes there are faster, better and more socially responsible ways to generate revenue to pay for repairs than the sale of the single family homes.” The two-phase strategy includes generating an estimated $120 million over the next two years to supply the existing TCHC capital repair budget of $53 million; and then a longer-term strategy that includes a bundle of financing options.
Precarious Housing in Canada and other research and policy work from the Wellesley Institute underlines the critical importance of housing not only for individuals but also for the population health of the entire community. We warned that selling off so much affordable housing would be bad for the health of Toronto, especially as affordable housing wait lists continue to set new records month after month after month. Earlier this year, the Wellesley Institute proposed a special commission to chart a more sustainable future for TCHC’s single family homes – and City Council adopted this plan in early March. We proposed seven key priorities for the new working group and also commissionedresearch and policy reports to assist Councillor Bailao and her colleagues on the working group.
The Wellesley Institute also partnered with more than three dozen TCHC tenants, community leaders and housing experts that met throughout the summer to prepare pragmatic policy recommendations for the Bailao working group. Many of those ideas were adopted in the final report.
The working group report is a big win for TCHC tenants and for all of Toronto. The next step in the process is a review by City Council’s Executive Committee on October 9, where the Wellesley Institute will join others in backing a healthy and sustainable future for TCHC. The working group report then moves to a debate at the full City Council in late October.