The long-standing backlog of repairs to Toronto’s aging public housing buildings has ballooned to more than $860 million and could triple in 10 years.
But it could be solved for good if the city, Queen’s Park and Ottawa sign on to a bold new 10-year plan to tackle the problem together, says a staff report to the city’s executive committee.
The first-ever long-term capital financing plan for Toronto Community Housing recommends the city pick up one-third of the $2.6-billion anticipated bill, or $864 million, and calls on Ottawa and Queen’s Park to pay equal shares of the rest.
The proposed funding plan to replace the public housing company’s many dilapidated kitchens and bathrooms, update heating and electrical systems and repair crumbing balconies and parking garages will be debated by the committee Wednesday.
If approved by council and senior governments, the plan assumes that the city and Toronto Community Housing will be able to cover capital needs for the company’s 58,500 units on their own after 10 years.
“We’re breaking ground with this 10-year capital plan,” said Councillor Ana Bailao, chair of the city’s affordable housing committee. “For the first time, the city is putting operating money into the capital needs of Toronto Community Housing.”
It will allow the public housing company to begin to address the long overdue work in an organized way and give tenants certainty that the repairs will happen, she added.
“We’re talking about kitchens and bathrooms that are falling apart and are unusable, children’s bedrooms where they can’t sleep because of the mold,” said Councillor Pam McConnell, whose Toronto Centre-Rosedale ward includes Regent Park, St. James Town and many other public housing buildings.
“This is about putting apartments back to a place in which families are happy to have their friends over and they aren’t embarrassed by the accommodations they are living in,” she said.
“It holds (the housing company’s) feet to the fire and ensures they will use this capital money to do the work,” she added.
The city’s one-third share includes $50 million a year from Toronto Community Housing’s operating budget, or $545 million over 10 years, when adjusted for inflation.
The plan proposes raising the remaining funds through mortgage refinancing, property tax exemptions, development charges and the sale of some of the housing company’s single-family homes.
The report, which acknowledges that Ottawa and Queen’s Park are currently battling budget deficits, says funding from senior governments won’t be needed until 2016.
The plan dovetails with a national campaign by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities launched Monday, urging Ottawa to work with provinces and municipalities to develop a long-term housing strategy.
“Canadians need their three orders of government to come to the table to resolve this housing crunch, because it’s too complicated for one government alone,” McConnell said.
“What we are saying in Toronto is we are putting our money where our mouth is,” she added.
A spokesman for Ontario Housing Minister Linda Jeffrey said the Liberal government “remains committed to ongoing dialogue with the City of Toronto, and any recommendation or resolution received from the (city) will be considered carefully.”
A spokeswoman for federal Minister of State for Social Development Candice Bergen said Ottawa does not get involved in funding specific housing proposals, as they are “decisions that are made at the provincial and local level.”
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