Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Toronto Community Housing Corporation TCHC: Government plans closure of hundreds of social housing units
Toronto Community Housing, the largest social housing provider in Canada, is planning to close 400 homes next year because of a lack of repair money.
Those closures, on top of 600 units to be boarded this year, would bring the total number of shuttered homes to 1,000 by the end of 2018.
There are now more than 181,000 people on the wait list for subsidized housing.
The fact that hundreds more people will lose their homes was outlined to board members at a meeting Tuesday, just days ahead of a provincial budget announcement that has left city officials seriously concerned the city will be short-changed on social housing.
“We should be discussing how to open new affordable housing units, not debating how many we’re going to have to close,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, who is a member of the board.
“In a city as wealthy as ours, in a province as wealthy as ours, it is an absolute failure on the part of all levels of government if we close units.
Toronto Community Housing, which manages nearly 60,000 units across 2,100 buildings, needs to secure an additional $350 million for repairs next year in order to prevent further closure of homes that will no longer be safe to live in.
The repairs are substantial; in 2016, they included fixing roofs, structural deficiencies, elevators and mechanical issues like plumbing.
Closing units means TCH is responsible to re-house those that are displaced, putting additional pressure on the waiting list that has continued to grow since 2007.
The original 10-year repair plan approved by the city budgeted a total $2.6 billion. Of that, $1.73 billion in funding is still needed. The plan called for spending $438 million next year.
But Toronto Community Housing’s vice-president of facilities management, Sheila Penny, explained only $82 million is available.
Of that, $38 million will come from further mortgage refinancing — which has up until this point largely financed the more than $900 million in repairs spending.
Eyes are now on the province, which is set to unveil a budget on Thursday.
Although Premier Kathleen Wynne recently indicated all three levels of government should be working together on housing in 2017, reinvesting in social housing would mean a reversal of decades of provincial downloading of the responsibility for the homes.
Unveiling her government’s Fair Housing Plan last week, the premier made no mention of social housing.
That announcement was met by a statement from the city’s housing advocate Councillor Ana Bailao.
“Toronto strongly encourages the province to step-up, and provide much needed funding, to help prevent the closure of social housing units in Toronto,” it read, in part.
On Tuesday, Bailao’s message was direct on the closure of social housing units: “If we don’t continue the (repairs) program, then it’s going to get even worse,” she told the Star.
“We have to know if we can count on them to address this huge housing issue.”
Mayor John Tory said he too has received no assurances about provincial funding.
“It’s time for all hands on deck to keep this city great and to make it a place that’s fair to live for all people,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
Housing Minister Chris Ballard’s office offered no details when asked about the issue by the Star this week.
“Canada’s new government agrees with Ontario that there is a need to invest in housing and infrastructure. We are ready to strengthen our partnership with the federal government to ensure that our most vulnerable people are not left behind,” said a statement from spokesperson Theresa Lubowitz.
The $82 million in repair money budgeted for next year does include $23 million from the federal government’s first phase of social infrastructure dollars announced last year.
As part of its 2017 budget announcement, the federal government dedicated $11.2 billion to housing over 11 years, falling short of the $12.6 billion over eight years request from mayors of major municipalities, including John Tory.
But the federal government has yet to elaborate on how much will be available for social housing repairs and how much of it will be available for next year.
“We’re just not sure yet how the federal money will flow and how it will be allocated. We’re hopeful we get more information on this soon,” Toronto Community Housing spokesperson Brayden Akers said in an email
The federal government was unable to provide clarity on the matter this week.
“Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is currently working on detailed program designs, and, as a result, the mechanisms through which funding from budget 2017 will flow will be announced later,” wrote Mathieu Filion, spokesperson for Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, who is responsible for housing.
Former interim CEO Greg Spearn, whose sudden resignation was announced Tuesday, has been sounding the alarm on the repair backlog for the past two years, noting they would hit a wall in 2017 without dedicated funding.
He told the Star earlier this year that TCH would be on track to close a unit a day in 2018 if more funds were not secured.
If TCH does not keep up with repairs, it is estimated more than 7,500 homes will need to be boarded up — more than 10 per cent of the entire portfolio.
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