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Big money for capital repairs in Toronto housing report

Options such as splitting up the TCHC will not be in the interim report to be released Wednesday.
July 14, 2015
By David Rider and Jennifer Pagliaro

Tenants of Toronto’s troubled social-housing provider will get their first glimpse Wednesday of plans to overhaul the huge agency.

A source with knowledge of the interim report from a six-member task force, headed by Liberal Senator Art Eggleton, said it does not include big bold moves such as splitting up the massive Toronto Community Housing Corp.

“The big things will come in the final report to be released in December,” the source told the Star. “The measures being announced Wednesday could have a huge day-to-day impact on the lives of tenants, but we’re not talking yet about transformational change for the organization.”

Another knowledgable source said the task force, appointed by Mayor John Tory in January, has found ways to refinance the Toronto Community Housing Corporation mortgages to free up $170 million this year and $200 million next year to help fund badly needed repairs for aging buildings.

The funds represent a significant portion of the city’s proposed share of the $2.6-billion capital repair bill - just under $900 million if both the provincial and federal governments agree to evenly split the tab. To date, Tory has been unable to convince either level of government to commit.

Other recommendations include plans to improve daily TCHC operations, in areas such as safety, with “aggressive timelines.”

Tory established the Eggleton task force after promising during his 2014 mayoral campaign to take concrete steps to improve tenants’ lives after a series of TCHC administrative scandals and concern about shoddy conditions in some buildings.

Acknowledging TCHC is Canada’s largest landlord, managing more than 58,000 units in 2,300 buildings, Tory said then a key item on the table is whether to break up the corporation into smaller pieces.

“It’s clear to me that the structure as it has been for some period of time is not working that well,” Tory said.

Eggleton said then: “At the end of the day, I want people to have decent, affordable housing. I want them to feel safe and secure in their housing.”

Susan Gapka, a TCHC tenant and housing activist, said Tuesday she expects to hear proposed solutions around violence in buildings and safety, drug use and building cleanliness.

“I worry that some of the macro issues will not be looked at and we’ll look at tenant behaviour rather than structural challenges,” she said.

“We’re at wit’s end. We’ve had mayor’s on the political left, right and mushy middle ... saying they want to do better and help us, but here we are with another report and we don’t know if there will be real structural change here.”

Gapka favours breaking up TCHC, but says much thought is needed as to whether sub-agencies would be based on geography, or portfolios to govern housing for specific groups such as elderly tenants and those with issues such as mental health or addictions.