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TCHC task force finds millions for repairs

Refinancing mortgages will free up $171 million this year, $200 million next year.
July 15, 2015
By Betsy Powell

An extra $371 million will be freed up to help reduce Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s backlogged $2.6-billion repair bill, Mayor John Tory’s housing task force announced Wednesday.

Officials with the city, TCHC and the task force worked together to refinance 12 TCHC mortgages that are renewing this year. The transaction is expected to be finalized by December, according to an interim report.

The task force is also taking credit for persuading Ottawa to offset penalty fees for refinancing TCHC mortgages held by Canada Mortgage Housing Corp. The federal government announced in its 2015 budget that $150 million would be made available to social housing providers as a result of the move.

“In this environment, where today we can go out and get a mortgage for 2.75 per cent, we had mortgages on some of these properties for 11 per cent,” Tory said. “This program and the penalty forgiveness is not a solution. but it will help us.”

The additional money will be used to repair roofs, elevators, balconies and parking garages in the agency’s aging social housing stock, Liberal Senator Art Eggleton, who heads the six-person task force, told reporters Wednesday.

TCHC houses more than 110,000 tenants in 2,200 buildings across Toronto and is the second largest residential landlord in North America. On average, TCHC’s buildings are more than 40 years old, “the majority ... reaching the end of their useful lives,” the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis said in a 2015 report. Without investment in repairs, by 2023, 91 per cent will be in poor or “critical condition,” or will be closed due to their “unsafe state of disrepair.”

This isn’t the first time TCHC repair money has been raised through mortgage refinancing.

In 2013, Councillor Ana Bailao, chair of the city’s affordable housing committee, recommended that council refinance 18 TCHC mortgages due that year, to unlock $93.5 million for repairs.

That same year, city council approved a $2.6-billion, 10-year capital repair plan split among the three levels of government.

TCHC and the city have secured $864 million for this year, but neither the federal nor provincial governments have announced matching funds - despite repeated overtures from the city and a two-year public awareness “Closing the Housing Gap” campaign.

“We have work to do in getting these governments to come in and participate in the full program,” Tory told a news conference Wednesday, held inside one of the first buildings erected as part of Regent Park’s ongoing revitalization.

After 34 meetings and public consultations, the Eggleton-led task force produced seven recommendations in its interim report.

They include calling on TCHC to implement several 60-day action plans to improve safety and the overall standard of living in all of its buildings.

If acted upon, those action plans should result in “noticeable and sustainable” improvements by the end of 2015, said Eggleton, who was Toronto’s mayor from 1980 to 1991.

CEO Greg Spearn said TCHC executives will report to the board at the corporation’s July 28 meeting on how it will respond. Spearn said the capital repair program, which began in earnest last year, will result “in a shifting tide of change.”

The task force is also reviewing TCHC's corporate and managerial structure. Those recommendations will be included in the final report at the end of the year.


The Toronto Community Housing Corporation is big by many measures.

$2.6 billion: What the TCHC’s current repair backlog will cost 10 years from now.

$896 million: Backlog of repair costs as of Jan. 1

60,000: Number of families that call TCHC buildings home. The agency is the largest social housing provider in Canada and second largest in North America, behind New York.

2,154: Number of buildings THCH owns; includes highrise, midrise and lowrise apartments, townhouses and single homes.

42: Average age of TCHC buildings. More than 1,000 buildings are over 50 years old.