Notes for remarks by Greg Spearn President and CEO (Interim) Toronto Community Housing

Notes for remarks by Greg Spearn President and CEO (Interim) Toronto Community Housing

January 18, 2016

10:30 A.M.

Item 6: CEO's Update

I would like to briefly highlight some of what Toronto Community Housing has been doing in our communities and at City Hall since the last board meeting on December 3. 

Winter jacket giveaway

On December 22, staff from our Resident and Community Services team working with our Rookie League partner Jays Care Foundation and their partner, New Era Clothing, gave away 200 sets of winter jackets, snow pants, and toques to children in four communities:  Weston Towers, Swansea Mews, 501 Adelaide St. E. and Finch Brahms. I attended the event at Finch Brahms. It was heartwarming to see the faces of the children and their parents when they received these gifts. It was a great example of how the work we do with our partners can make a real difference in the lives of our residents. I'll have more to say about our partnership with Jays Care Foundation in a few minutes.

Toronto Crime Stoppers Month event

On January 7, I attended the official launch of Crime Stoppers Month at Toronto Police headquarters. During the event, Mayor Tory, Police Chief Mark Saunders, and Toronto Crime Stoppers board chair Gary Grant all spoke specifically and highly of Toronto Community Housing's partnership with Crime Stoppers, which we launched last September.

Our new relationship with Toronto Crime Stoppers is not just about posting signs in our community. Crime Stoppers volunteers have already spent a lot of time on the ground in our communities talking about the program with residents, and these activities will continue through most of 2016. Crime Stoppers is just one more tool that will help our communities feel safer. 

Presentation to City Budget Committee

As the chair noted, Toronto Community Housing presented its 2016 budget to the City Budget Committee one week ago, on January 11. This is the first time that Toronto Community Housing has been invited to present our approved budget to the committee.  We used the presentation to explain who we are and what we do, and to build awareness at City Hall about our financial situation and the opportunities and challenges we face in 2016.

Our team did an incredible amount of work to develop the presentation and supporting materials, and we also set the stage by holding advance meetings with several City Councillors and staff. All this hard work really did pay off. We did raise awareness and understanding of our issues among Councillors, based on the thoughtful questions asked at the committee meeting. This awareness will certainly help us as Council makes decisions on the City's budget and will also serve us well once discussions begin at the City following the release of the Mayor's Task Force final report. I believe it is critically important that we work very hard with all City Councillors and staff to build a common understanding of what Toronto Community Housing's issues are.

Hydro bill relief letters

Last week, letters to some 1,200 RGI households that pay for their own electric heating were put out for mailing and should arrive to the affected households shortly. The letters will update residents on the financial relief we are providing for the 2015-16 heating season—a program the board approved last fall. We recognize the hardships these households faced last winter and we are doing what we can to lessen the burden this winter while we work to develop long-term solutions. We've partnered with Toronto Hydro to calculate the relief payment for each household and arranged to make the payment directly to Toronto Hydro as a credit to the account of each household. 

Jays Care partnership event

Tomorrow morning I will be at the Rogers Centre along with our board chair, the mayor, a number of board members, 25 Rookie League participants, representatives of the Jays Care Foundation, our staff and other special guests to make an important announcement about our Rookie League summer baseball program sponsored by Jays Care Foundation. The announcement is part of the Toronto Blue Jays winter media tour and should attract considerable media attention. It's happening in the Blue Jays clubhouse and will involve some of the Jays players, so it's going to be a really exciting day for our 25 young Rookie Leaguers and a great day for Toronto Community Housing as we expand our program.

Progress on capital repairs funding

Finally, through my office we have had a number of direct requests from newly elected federal MPs and their staff to provide them with information to help them understand Toronto Community Housing's financial challenges and capital repair needs. These briefings are building the new federal government's awareness of our funding needs but also reinforcing their confidence in us as a company. Clearly, the briefings have shown them that we have our act together, know what needs to be done, and can deliver should the money come through. The briefings were also very helpful in expanding their understanding of our homes and properties specific to their ridings.  We continue to keep the City informed of these activities and to work closely with them as they advance our cause with both Ottawa and Queen's Park.

The past few weeks have been very encouraging and, if the stars truly do align for us when the federal government announces its budget as expected in March, I can assure the board and our residents that Toronto Community Housing is ready to deliver should they support us financially in our capital repair program and other projects.