The National Housing Co-investment Fund agreement announced on April 5, 2019 will provide Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) with $1.34-billion in loans and grants over nine years. This is the largest federal investment to repair and renew social housing stock in Canada's history.
Along with ongoing funding from the City of Toronto, this federal investment will enable TCHC to continue its 10-year capital renewal plan to improve living conditions, safety and comfort for 110,000 tenants, make tenants' homes and buildings accessible and energy-efficient, and prevent having to permanently close units.
What is the level of investment?
The agreement provides $1.34 billion in funding from 2019 to 2027 inclusive. There is $116 million for 2019, $126 million for 2020, $178 million for 2021 and $153 million each year from 2022 through to 2027. TCHC will use these funds to repair and renew its housing stock and achieve the fund's goals of affordability, accessibility and energy efficiency. Money will begin to flow in late summer/early fall of 2019.
How much is loans and how much is grants?
The $1.34 billion consists of 60 per cent in loans ($810 million) and 40 per cent in grants ($530 million). In the first three years, the funding mix is 50 per cent loans and 50 per cent grants. This will provide an extra $45 million in grants over this period. There will be a mix of loans and grants in every year of the agreement.
How does the co-investment fund work?
The fund supports the National Housing Strategy goals of affordability, accessibility and energy efficiency. To access funds, projects must support the needs of vulnerable populations by preserving affordable housing; improve accessibility for tenants with disabilities by adding accessible units and removing barriers; and help achieve Canada's climate change goals by reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
What difference do these improvements make to tenants' lives?The capital repairs will improve tenants' quality of life and allow them to age in place and participate fully in the life of their community.
Through the 2018 Tenant Experience Survey, tenants told TCHC they want clean, well-maintained homes in good repair. They want homes that are warm in winter, cool in summer and dry year-round. They want buildings with well-maintained and accessible grounds and common areas, reliable elevators, and laundry rooms, garbage rooms and recycling areas that everyone can use.
TCHC's capital plan is prioritized based on need; work to address the most critical repair needs is done first. Repairs to improve energy-efficiency and remove barriers to accessibility are important to quality of life for all tenants in a building.
How does TCHC define state of good repair?TCHC defines good repair as a facilities condition index, or FCI, of 10 per cent, which is a housing industry standard. The goal of our 10-year capital plan is to reach an FCI of 10 per cent by the year 2026.
How is this federal funding assisting TCHC's building capital renewal efforts?Recognizing that record levels of investment were needed to keep pace with the declining state of repair in its aging buildings, in 2013 TCHC accelerated its building capital repair program. From 2013 to 2017, TCHC has invested a total of $850 million in building capital repairs, funded through mortgage refinancing, loans, the sale of surplus homes, and cash reserves.
To continue this building capital repair and renewal effort, TCHC plans to spend $3.07 billion over 10 years. This includes $300 million in 2018, $313.1 million in 2019, $350 million in each of the following six years (2020 to 2025), $337 million in 2026 and $160 million in 2027 after it has reached a 10-per-cent FCI.
Based on state of repair forecasts, Toronto Community Housing has estimated that without full funding for its 10-year capital plan, it would face having to close as many as 7,500 units. Permanently closing units is always a last resort to protect the safety of our tenants and their families. The federal investment provides some financial certainty for TCHC to continue its capital renewal plan and avoid permanently closing units.
How was TCHC able to access so much money through the fund?
TCHC made the case that this is an excellent investment, one that achieves the fund's objectives across an entire portfolio of nearly 60,000 units. Rather than apply with a "this-many-units-in-this-many-buildings" approach as in past programs, TCHC's proposal identified a partnership opportunity to repair and renew its entire portfolio while improving accessibility, supporting Canada's climate change goals and significantly enhancing living conditions for 110,000 Toronto residents.
Does this mean TCHC has a fully funded capital plan?
The agreement adds $1.34 billion to TCHC's 10-year capital plan. While there is still more work to be done, TCHC is now in a much stronger position to continue making much-needed capital repairs to its buildings.
How will the co-investment fund improve accessibility in tenants' homes?
Toronto Community Housing has made great strides in improving accessibility for tenants with disabilities by working in close partnership with a tenant advisory group, the Responsible Personal Accessibility in Toronto Housing (R-PATH) Committee. This work includes developing accessibility standards that exceed City guidelines or the Building Code, and putting in place a universal accessibility program that ensures all tenants have access to accommodations for current and emerging needs.
The co-investment fund requires that 20 per cent of units must meet accessibility standards. The traditional approach has been to design and build a certain number of accessible units per building. However, this approach sets a finite number of available units, and none may meet the needs of a given tenant at a given time. Instead, TCHC offers on-demand retrofits. A total of $151 million has been allocated over the term of the agreement for on-demand accessibility improvements in tenants' homes.
What is the on-demand accessibility program?
Under the on-demand program, any tenant may self-identify as needing an accommodation for a disability. Staff will work with the tenant to assess their needs. Then TCHC will make the necessary upgrades to the tenant's home, allowing them to remain in their home rather than have a potentially disruptive move to another building.
How will the co-investment fund improve accessibility in common areas?
The fund requires common areas of buildings to be barrier-free. TCHC is upgrading common areas to ensure there are accessible travel paths for tenants and visitors. In many buildings, TCHC is redesigning the space to make it fully accessible and, in doing so, is creating highly functional, refreshed spaces that breathe new life into a building and restore dignity and pride. Almost $240 million has been allocated over the term of the agreement for planned accessibility improvements to common areas.
How is TCHC making repairs to improve energy efficiency?
Under the co-investment fund, projects must reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent. TCHC is doing energy retrofits to replace components and systems in aging buildings to bring them up to current energy standards.
To reduce utility costs (currently about $140 million a year), TCHC is going beyond "like for like" replacement of heating and cooling systems, cladding, windows and doors, plumbing fixtures, lighting systems and more by using products and technologies that modernize buildings, save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What else is TCHC doing to improve energy efficiency?
Toronto Community Housing is reaching out to engage tenants about energy conservation. Even though only three per cent of TCHC tenants pay utility bills, there is considerable interest in reducing energy use and lowering TCHC's carbon footprint. As well, TCHC monitors its energy use and utility bills to track trends and look for patterns that show where it can reduce energy use and find savings.
About Toronto Community Housing
Toronto Community Housing (www.torontohousing.ca) is Canada's largest social housing provider. We provide homes for nearly 60,000 low- and moderate-income households in neighbourhoods across the city.