News / Toronto

City on hook for $1.6 billion to fix crumbling public housing

A revised repairs plan and latest Toronto Community Housing budget, approved Thursday, means city council is now solely responsible for $160 million annually for the next 10 years to close the budget gap.

Mayor John Tory addresses the media about the city's capital plan to make repairs to Toronto Community Housing Corporation buildings in March 2015.

DOMINIK KUREK / Torstar News Service Order this photo

Mayor John Tory addresses the media about the city's capital plan to make repairs to Toronto Community Housing Corporation buildings in March 2015.

The city is being put on the hook to close the budget gap for repairs to crumbling public housing — a bill totalling $1.6 billion.

The bulk of the remaining repairs backlog, long known and left unaddressed, is now to be the direct responsibility of the city, outlined in a 2018 budget tabled by Toronto Community Housing at the board Thursday.

The new plan, approved Thursday, means city council is now solely responsible for $160 million annually for the next 10 years. An additional $810 million is required to fund a total $2.4 billion over the next 10 years — what is expected from other levels of government.

It is a plan that both acknowledges the lack of investment from other governments to date and one that would ensure no more public housing units close.

“At the end of the day all levels of government have a responsibility to invest in Toronto Community Housing, but our TCH budget calls on the city to be our line of last defence always,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, a member of the TCH board, after the vote.

He said it’s significant that the city will now have a dedicated capital budget line item for Toronto Community Housing. On meeting that need to prevent more units being boarded up, Cressy said: “I’m optimistic the political will is there.”

The revised plans follow a council direction moved by Cressy and passed in July that Toronto Community Housing “ensure that no additional housing units are permanently closed in 2018 and 2019.”

The original 10-year capital repairs plan requested the city, province and federal governments split a $2.6 billion bill three ways.

Though the city, largely through mortgage and other refinancing, has contributed nearly $1 billion, the other governments have never committed to that plan.

There remain few additional opportunities to refinance mortgages, the TCH board heard Thursday.

Sheila Penny, vice-president of facilities management, confirmed Thursday that a re-forecasted plan would ensure no more units are shuttered.

Toronto Community Housing was on track to close 400 units next year on top of 600 to be closed this year.

Today, in communities like Firgrove in North York, there are residents packing their belongings into boxes as more than 100 families are displaced from their townhomes because they are beyond repair and soon to be inhabitable.

The repairs required are not superficial. They include roof replacement, new furnaces, elevators and plumbing problems.

TCH data provided to the Star earlier this year showed more than 30 social housing properties are already in serious disrepair and 222 of 364 developments are ranked in “poor” condition.

The new plan would see $300 million in repairs spending next year and in 2019, with spending ramping up to $350 million through 2026.

City council could fulfil a request to pay the $1.6 billion through other governments, if they agreed to pay.

The federal government announced $11 billion for affordable housing over 11 years, including social housing, but it is not yet known how much might be available for TCH and when.

The province has not responded to repeated pleas to contribute a one-third share and has not outlined social housing spending beyond $343 million promised over three years for energy retrofits.

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