Chief Executive Officer (interim)
Toronto Community Housing
For those opposed to Toronto Community Housing's plan to sell 675 stand-alone properties to raise the money we badly need for capital repairs, I offer a suggestion.
Visit our buildings. As many as you can.
I have visited more than 70 buildings over this past year. Many tell the story of how, over the past 10 years, Toronto Community Housing has been starved of the capital funds it needs to maintain its housing in good repair. Year over year, essential maintenance and repairs have been put off, because the company didn't have the money to pay for them. Today, far too many of our buildings are showing their age (40 years old, on average) and failing to meet a standard of good repair.
Sadly, for most of our 164,000 tenants, these buildings are the places they call home.
The 675 properties are mainly stand-alone houses, costly assets to operate and maintain. Some sit vacant, unfit to live in but beyond the point where it would make economic sense to repair them. Deciding to sell these properties is a difficult choice, but it's the best option we have for raising the money we need to fix our buildings and tackle a $650-million repair bill that is growing by $100 million every year.
We have heard the concerns about housing loss. But Toronto Community Housing will have the exact number of rent-geared-to-income units after the sales as we have now. We'll convert market-rent units to replace rent-geared-to-income units that are sold. Selling the 675 properties actually will hold off an impending decline in our housing stock. Without new funding, Toronto Community Housing cannot maintain our current "good-to-fair" average state of repair, as defined by industry standards, for much longer. This average will move to "poor" in 2014 and "critical" by 2020. Half our buildings will be "poor' or "critical" in five years, and an alarming 95 per cent will be "critical" by 2022. Our plan will raise the funds we need to reverse this trend, at no extra cost to taxpayers.
Our plan is about fairness for all our tenants. We will treat affected tenants fairly and accommodate their needs. No one will have to move until another suitable unit is found. We respect that tenants live in and are members of a broader community, and we will do our best to help them maintain these important ties. But we are also focused on fairness for those tenants currently living in substandard housing. Our plan will bring relief for these tenants and their families, and improve their quality of life.
We've heard the concerns about loss of integrated housing. Toronto Community Housing supports mixed income communities. It is a core value of our revitalization projects, notably Regent Park, and it's the day-to-day reality for most tenants living in our high-rises alongside condos and private rental buildings, and our townhomes next to single-family homes and low-rise apartments. Our plan will stagger the sale of properties over a number of years, starting with the vacant properties. This will give us the time we need to address every affected household's situation as best we can.
Our plan asks Ottawa and Queen's Park to do their fair share. Clearly, a long-term funding solution must involve the federal and provincial governments, but neither has indicated they will provide this funding. Doing nothing, however, is not an option. We must act now for our 164,000 tenants, many of whom have lived in substandard housing for too long. Our plan will provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people, takes care of those directly affected, and imposes no extra costs on taxpayers.
As run in The Star on January 24th, 2012.