Mayor Ford’s deferral of proposed housing sale a sign of mounting opposition to the privatization of social housing

Tenants for Social Housing spent January 24th at City Hall to observe the Executive Committee meeting, despite the 11th hour deferral of a motion to sell 740 publicly-owned homes. The 76 deputants who had signed up to speak against the proposed sale received notice late on Jan. 23rd that the Mayor would move to defer discussion of the sale until Feb. 13, 2012. The Mayor justified the last-minute deferral saying that he needed more information from TCHC about the sale. Ford justified the deferral and managed to insult tenants at the same time:  “I meet with people in Toronto Community Housing units every week. Many of the units are absolutely disgusting. The entire system is in desperate need of repairs” (quoted in Toronto Sun). T4SH members disagree that their homes are disgusting, and reject the notion that public housing must be sold to pay for repairs.

T4SH members were shocked but not surprised by the last-minute change-up. Many residents of “stand-alone” homes had taken a day off of work and arranged childcare to be able to attend the meeting and speak against the sale. This whole experience has been very stressful, and the late breaking deferral has done little to calm the nerves of people who fear eviction. At the same time, we view this as a sign of success. T4SH member Doris Power, whose home is on the sell list, was quoted by the Toronto Star: “I think it proves that we’ve been right all along … They don’t have the facts, they don’t have the figures, they don’t have a plan. Their only strategy has been sell, sell, sell.”

T4SH and our allies view the deferral as a sign of Mayor Ford’s weakening power, and as a success related to the mobilization of tenants and supporters against this sale. According to the Globe and Mail: “The deferral coincides with mounting opposition to the selloff. City councillors have been inundated with concerns from four former mayors (Barbara Hall, John Sewell, Art Eggleton and David Crombie), two sitting MPPs (Lorenzo Berardinetti and Glen Murray) and various think tanks all questioning the sale.” Councillor Adam Vaughan noted that: “On this issue the mayor is looking at 75 deputants, a report riddled with inaccuracies and a lack of any strategy for public housing beyond selling, and he is wisely hitting the pause button.” One of the deputants signed up to speak was Michael Shapcott of Toronto’s Wellesley Institute. You can read his powerful deputation here.

Critique of the sale is also coming from Councillor Ana Bailao, chair of the affordable housing committee, who noted that:  “This is a drop in the bucket … I want to look at some other options. I want to gather the stakeholders and work on a report to explore other alternatives. Selling these houses is not going to address the larger issue at hand.” The Globe & Mail also cited Jon Alexander, a tenant who would be displaced by the sale: “How can it be a good idea to be evicting people – over 2,000 people – when there is already such a critical shortage of social housing?”

Councillor Adam Vaughan, cited in the Toronto Sun, interpreted the deferral as a sign that the Mayor does not have the votes on Council to approve this sale. After last week’s budget vote, which saw City Council vote against Ford to stop cuts to city services, the Mayor is realizing that he can’t force through an unjust and ill-conceived sale of social housing. Vaughan explained that: “They don’t have a handle on the agenda so instead of making bad decisions or getting beaten with better decisions they are just making no decisions … Instead of losing the vote, they are putting the vote off.” He also chastised the Mayor for wasting tenants’ time and adding to their stress: “It is very disrespectful to the tenants; it is just wrong.”

T4SH is grateful to tenants and supporters who have helped to organize a movement against this sale. But we won’t stop now. On February 13, 2012 we will show the Executive Committee that our opposition to the sale, and our commitment to social housing cannot be deferred!

Articles quoted in this post:

Dale, Daniel. (Jan. 24, 2012). “Ford’s executive avoids bold moves on TCHC, Hydro, EMS“. Toronto Star.

McKeown, Shawne. (Jan. 24, 2012). Mayor delays debate on Toronto Community Housing sell-off. City News.

Peat, Don. (Jan. 23, 2012). Ford delays TCHC sale. Toronto Sun.

Stop the Cuts. (Jan. 20, 2012). Toronto budget: Major victory but fight continues.

Wellesley Institute. (Jan. 23, 2012). Don’t sell-off 740 affordable homes as wait-list reaches 82, 138: WI to Exec.

White, Patrick. (Jan. 23, 2012). “Mayor seeks deferral on social housing sale“. Globe and Mail.

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