It gets worse and worse for Toronto Community Housing Corporation. Just one week after the city auditor revealed inappropriate expenses and egregious lapses in procurement practices, the TCHC executive is a shambles: the civilian board resigned, tenant reps were ousted and CEO Keiko Nakamura, who so far refused to quit, will surely be given the boot by city councilors.
Now, amidst rumours that Mayor Rob Ford has ordered an appraisal of all city housing stock, comes news that Case Ootes will take over as interim managing director. Ootes, a veteran councilor who retired prior to last fall’s election, is a both long-time Ford ally and critic of social housing in the city.
It’s a poorly-kept secret that Mayor Ford wants to privatize TCHC.
The reasons are obvious. The city faces a $744 million deficit next year. TCHC has a $6 billion portfolio. Selling off even portion of the housing stock will go a long way towards balancing a budget. Granted, some of the savings would go to rent supplements for low-income households, but those supplements rely on vacancies and, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp, Toronto vacancies are in a decade-long drop. In fact, University of Toronto professor (and CERA supporter) David Hulchanski says Europe, United States and New Zealand all rely on a mix of public housing and rent supplements. Toronto itself has 58,700 affordable units and 4,693 supplemented households.
Ford’s mantra of privatization is based on blind ideology, not thoughtful study. Privatization is deemed less costly for taxpayers and therefore more efficient. But there is more than one way to gauge efficiency. TCHC, warts and all, houses some of our most vulnerable citizens –the mentally ill, the working poor, the aged and infirm – and these people are far less likely to be protected in a purely private market, rent supplement or no.
Mayor Ford is blatantly using the TCHC scandal to push forward his simple solutions. He might eliminate the financial costs but ignore the human cost. And that will be the real scandal.