Crumbling beams, broken elevators, faulty fire alarm systems and broken hot water heaters are just some of the issues residents in Toronto's Community Housing face each day. With a repair bill topping $169.9 million it is clear that Toronto has to find a way to fund the growing repair to-do list but where?
One idea from the Toronto Community Housing (TCH) is to sell off 675 single dwelling homes.
Since 2002 Toronto Community Housing
has invested $1.1 billion in capital repairs to improve its housing. This year $48.6 million is set to be invested by the city. Despite this there is a $751-million capital repair backlog (2012). By 2015 the backlog is expected to reach $1 billion.
What's at stake are 2,600 tenants that live in these homes that will be forced into multi-unit dwellings. There are already 80,000 people on waiting lists for these homes.
Councillor Ana Bailão, chair of the city’s affordable housing committee, consulted with Mayor Rob Ford last Friday about the issue reports the Toronto Star
Bailão appeared hopeful after that meeting that Ford was listening to her concerns. The current plan being discussed has just 56 units to be sold, all of which have no current tenants.
With close to $100 million in repairs needed selling the 675 homes appears to be perhaps a smart move but is it?
It should be noted that the TCH board are all allies of Mayor Rob Ford. Some of those on City Council have likened the plan to as Councilor Mike Layton
says, "selling the house to pay the mortgage."
The plan to sell off single family units may appear on the surface to help pay for repairs at the larger multi-family units.
In January 5 homes were sold bringing in $3.45 million for the TCH. Some of that money will be used for repairs. Last week another 3 homes were sold for over $2.6 million. They had been assessed at $1,669,000. If all of the homes are sold it is expected that they would bring in at least $222 million.
"Selling three costly to maintain and repair properties for 58% more than their assessed value is a solid deal for tenants and taxpayers. The proceeds will help Toronto Community Housing make much-needed repairs that will improve tenants' quality of housing and quality of life. "
-Len Koroneos, CEO, Toronto Community Housing
Currently there are 164,000 tenants living in 58,500 units. There are just over 2,600 people living in the 675 stand-alone units. They would have to move is the plan is approved. The TCH promises to work with those tenants to find them a suitable unit and pay for their moving costs.
Selling these units will mean less income for Toronto Community Housing but it's been considered that the less income would benefit more people living in community housing.
The largest cost for repairs is for interiors which includes bathroom and kitchen repairs/renovations, plaster for walls and ceilings, fixing floors, completing common-area repairs and accessibility upgrades. At 25 Bishop Tutu Blvd., one of the multi-family units, there is work underway by Adams Painting, who has a contract for about 40 percent of the painting jobs associated with community housing, to paint the interior of the building. One of the workers at the site today said that the location was one of the cleanest buildings he had worked on. He declined to give his name but said most of the buildings have cockroaches running around.
I questioned if painting was as important as some of the more mechanical repairs. The worker responded that if the building doesn't look good tenants don't have as good a quality of life.
The super at the location said he was not allowed to speak to media referring me to the corporate office when asked if all of his units were rentable.