What’s Next for Toronto Community Housing Corporation?

Between fiduciary failings, bad press, and the dissolution of its Board, the public housing company has a decidedly cloudy future.

Let’s say Mayor Ford clears all the provincial legislative hurdles.  Let’s say the city actually privatizes much of the public housing stock.  Let’s say the whole enterprise goes belly up.

What then?

According to current mayoral wisdom, the sell-off of TCHC assets would mean the city relies more heavily on rent supplements to provide affordable housing for 164,000 tenants.  Plus, incoming monies from the sale of buildings could start to provide supplements to 143,000 tenants on the subsidized housing waiting list.  Sounds great!  Except the success of rent supplements relies on a high vacancy rate; when vacancies drop, rents rise, and the city ends up paying more to keep up its end of the bargain.  Guess what?  Toronto vacancies have been dropping for a decade.  According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, there has been a 30% decrease in rental units across the GTA since 2000.  Worse than that, there is no incentive for private developers to build more affordable housing because the condo market is just too lucrative.

If the city sells off its assets, are we ahead of the game or not?  Up till now, there has been no serious dialogue on social housing policy.  To be fair, council has been preoccupied with the fallout of the city auditor’s report and the ensuing fight over the liability of the Board itself.  But now that this has played out, will Mayor Ford or TCHC managing director Case Ootes spend time talking to housing experts?  Will they look at social housing models in other cities?  Even a quick glance shows that a combination of strategies – rent supplements and dedicated affordable housing – yields the most promising results.  It’s not an exact science by any means, but it is an area that requires study, thought, and discussion.

  • I am a woman who has lived in “housing” since 1969: OHC, Cityhome & Toronto Community Housing. OHC was responsible for me losing my job with the provincial government when they refused to follow their own policies regarding transfers and plunged a single, sole-support mother onto public assistance. That injustice actually assisted me to be accepted by Cityhome and moved out of a project townhouse and into an individual scatterhome where I lived until a few children moved out and I was forced to move to a smaller scatterhouse due to overhousing. All three houses are within a kilometer of each other in the Riverdale area of Toronto. I have lived in this scatterhouse for some 20 years. Since amalgamation and the takeover of Cityhome by Toronto Community Housing, they have allowed housing stock to deteriorate and ignored tenants’ rights. Yet, I was not only willing to accept this treatment … but was grateful for it, because I am now a senior with limited mobility and I am the caregiver to a son who has Down syndrome and Autism. This is the only home this son can remember and he is known in this community. Two years ago a neighbour showed me my house was listed in the National Post as one that TCHC would put up for sale. This week TCHC has announced they will sell another 22 houses and expect to sell another 47. Real estate agents are harassing me!!!! Seems they know more than I do about which houses have been chosen. I cannot continue to survive with such insecurity. Do you have any idea how much time & energy goes into planning and organizing the life of a disabled adult? My son’s programs are in this area. Because appropriate and affordable activities are difficult to access, I am very active in local organizations. (example: I am Vice-Chair of the east & central Advisory Council with Adapted and Integrated Programs Toronto Parks & Recreation) My son’s life would be at risk in any rent-geared-to-income apartment building! Over the years I was a very active advocate for the poor and the differently-abled. I helped organize some of the first tenant associations in this province, served on committees with Cityhome, was the founding director & helped create the T.C. Douglas Housing Co-Op, worked relief at shelters and in supportive housing, and acted as a traditional Native foster parent for high medical needs children, etc. About fifty years of my life have been devoted to social justice and human rights … and I feel like I’ve been banging my head on a wall for too long! Even though I now require physical assistance myself, I am still the primary caregiver to another adult. To now be faced with homelessness .. or the struggle to recreate a life and community for my son … much less find a safe & appropriate place to live on an income far below the poverty level, I’m afraid is beyond my abilities. I am frankly losing the will to live. I doubt CERA can make a successful case for me with TCHC and the City of Toronto …but I wish CERA good luck in your efforts on behalf of human rights and of tenants and the thousands needing housing!