Last spring, City of Toronto councillor Ana Bailão formed a special working group on Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s proposed sell-off of 619 single family homes. The report, Putting People First, was released in September and it contains some very good ideas. First off is the recommendation that TCHC sell only 55 of the 619 homes originally suggested (this is in addition to the sale of 56 homes that council has already approved). There’s a simple reason for this: a full sale of the proposed properties would bring in $220 million over five years; however, TCHC faces a $1 million operating shortfall every year. What happens once the money from the sell-off is gone? Bailão’s report rightly argues against this short-term thinking.
The report offers some interesting long-range ideas. One is to convert up to 100 single-family into affordable home ownership. Over 50% of TCHC tenants have said they want to own the home they live in and this may be a good opportunity.
The report also suggests that TCHC renegotiate its mortgages, which currently include interest rates up to 13%. In contrast, Infrastructure Ontario offers long-term loans for social housing providers at a rate of 3.84%. Over the long haul, that amounts to quite a savings.
Not all the suggestions in Putting People First will be workable, but the point is that the report offers plenty to think about. Which is more than we were offered before.