Q: Toronto Community Housing has a housing crisis that they can’t deal with. Don’t you think they should do whatever they need to do to fix it?
Tenants for Social Housing believe that a broader strategy for dealing with the necessary capital and everyday maintenance repairs is needed in Toronto Community Housing.
Toronto Community Housing is “tackling” the challenge of Toronto’s housing crisis in a way that is creating more harm than good for tenants. We want repairs to get done, but selling people’s homes is not a sustainable strategy for responding to the repair backlog. It is inevitable that repairs will grow as our homes and buildings age. We oppose Toronto Community Housing selling off our homes until there is nothing left to repair.
While Tenants for Social Housing is against the sale of any homes, we are also not comfortable with putting the money from the sale of our homes into a fund that relies on the market to fund the capital repairs backlog. We know that over $300 million went to Toronto Community Housing in the last couple of years for capital repairs but we don’t know what happened to it. We also do not understand why the dollar amount of capital repairs today is still so high. More accountability, transparency and communication is required from staff at Toronto Community Housing before any sales are approved.
Q: Toronto Community Housing is only talking about selling off a number of units – the majority of units will still remain. There is a greater good to selling a small number of units and repairing a larger number of other units.
At the beginning of the year, tenants were first promised that no homes in Toronto Community Housing would be sold. Then tenants were told that only 22 scattered homes would need to be sold to deal with a major capital repair crisis that needs to be addressed because no level of government wants to fund the solution. Tenants were told not to worry because this wasn’t about a massive sell off or privatizing of our homes.
In June 2011, outgoing Board member Case Ootes publicly recommended to the incoming Toronto Community Housing Board to consider the sale of over 900 scattered homes and at the June 2011 City Council meeting, Councillor Mammoliti, in a statement to the media, suggested that the Toronto Community Housing Board and City Council should look even further and consider all of our homes as potentially for sale.
At the October 21, 2011 Toronto Community Housing Board meeting, CEO Len Koroneos was asked by a Board member whether he could guarantee to the Board that no further homes would be sold as a strategy for dealing with capital repairs in the future. Mr. Koroneos’ response was no, he could not make that guarantee.
This is an alarming trend for both tenants of Toronto Community Housing and the over 79,000 that are on the waiting list for social housing. Tenants now believe there is a massive sell off of our homes given the pattern of conversations and decisions that have been made in under one year. We also reject rhetoric that attempts to pit one set of tenants against another.
The City of Toronto and Toronto Community Housing need to work with tenants and other leaders in housing to develop a strategy for dealing with these repairs that does not involved the forced removal of tenants from their homes and communities.
Q: If you don’t want Toronto Community Housing to sell homes, how do you suggest that they pay for repairs?
Tenants for Social Housing does not believe Toronto Community Housing has looked at every possible solution for dealing with the backlog of capital repairs. Tenants for Social Housing believes that Toronto Community Housing, in partnership with the City of Toronto should take a sober second thought and take the time to explore all alternatives to completing the much needed capital repairs. For a provider of social housing, selling homes and forcing people out of their homes and communities is not an option.
Toronto Community Housing can be more creative with how they get repairs done. They can look into apprenticeships and training programs that would engage partnerships with contractors and tenants which would help tenants gain employable skills and also help complete onsite repairs. At the October 21, 2011 Toronto Community Housing Board meeting, multiple alternatives to selling peoples’ homes were provided by deputants to the Board. The Board refused to take these into consideration and instead chose to approve the forced removal of tenants from their homes.
In addition, Toronto Community Housing needs to hold all levels of government accountable for their roles in making sure that tenants have a decent home to live in. The Provincial government has yet to provide their share of funding to the City of Toronto for the backlog of capital repairs that existed when they downloaded housing to municipalities in 2001. The Federal government has contributed a very small amount to the City of Toronto but the need is much greater than their contribution.
All levels of government need to provide ongoing, sustainable funding to the City of Toronto and Toronto Community Housing to make sure that the sale of peoples’ homes is never a solution or excuse for dealing with their capital repairs.
Q: The City’s budget cuts are inevitable. Toronto Community Housing has to reduce their costs.
Tenants for Social Housing understands that they City of Toronto is in a difficult financial situation. This “crisis” is, however, a manufactured one, and critics have shown how the city’s budgetary shortfall could be reduced to zero without cutting services or selling off assets (See the Wellesley Institute’s website on this or download their report here: Countdown To Zero). Regardless of this situation, we all know, as does the City of Toronto, that the benefits are greater when people have stable, affordable housing. In the Housing Opportunities Toronto report, the City says:
- Every 1,000 units of affordable housing built creates between 2,000 and 2,500 person years of employment
- Costs less on average ($23 per day) than use of emergency shelters ($69), jails ($142) and hospitals ($665) when people are homeless
From an economic perspective, it is more efficient to provide housing for people rather than forcing people on the street and into precarious housing situations. Governments spend more of their budgets when they do not provide affordable, decent housing for people. Tenants for Social Housing is calling on the City and other levels of government to be more efficient and effective with their budgets and to invest in rather than sell off Toronto Community Housing. We also recognize that this crisis is in many ways manufactured by intentional choices to cut revenue streams by the current city administration.
Q: Don’t tenants want repairs to get done?
Tenants for Social Housing know the importance of having a decent and healthy home. We are living in the conditions that people are speaking about each and every day.
Tenants for Social Housing does not believe Toronto Community Housing has looked at every possible solution for dealing with the capital repairs problem. Previous Boards have had comprehensive strategies which included seeking funding from all three levels of government, energy saving retrofits, and revitalization. We all want repairs to get done as quickly as possible, but selling people’s homes is not a sustainable strategy for dealing with the repairs problem. Toronto Community Housing needs to engage tenants in a conversation about repairs and solutions for dealing with them rather than selling off peoples’ homes and forcing us out of our homes.
Q: How is the potential sale of over 1,000 homes impacting tenants?
Impacted tenants are angry that Toronto Community Housing didn’t inform them about the Board meeting on October 21, 2011. Tenants for Social Housing has heard from seniors that have lived in their homes for over 30 years and never thought they would be forced out of their home at the age of 78. We’ve heard from families that have talked about the affect this will have on their children having to move to other neighbourhoods. We have heard from adult children caring for parents with Alzheimer’s and their concern for taking them out of their known environment.
This is more than just housing being sold, more than bricks and mortar and the bottom line. This is about our homes, our neighbourhoods, our communities and the lives of tenants in Toronto. No one feels safe about their homes anymore. No one knows if they’re going to be asked to move out of their homes and communities because the City has decided to sell them off all in the name of dealing with a crisis that tenants didn’t create. Everyone in our City deserves respect, a good, stable home and to not be used as a way of dealing with a debt we did not create. Stop the massive sale of our homes and social housing in Toronto.
Q: But won’t people get another house? This isn’t displacement.
Tenants who are evicted from their homes in “stand-alone” units will be forcibly displaced from their homes, their communities, the support systems, their networks of friendship, their jobs, their schools, and their sense of belonging to a place that they care about. While tenants will be given a replacement unit to live in, it will not likely be in their same community (since all stand-alone units are proposed for sale) and will not be a house. Tenants who may enjoy the benefits of living in a house (which may suit the special needs of people with disabilities or larger families), will lose these if they move into an apartment – which is where they will end up. TCHC’s plan is to relocate ALL residents of standalone apartment units in their portfolio. In order to create space in these apartment blocks, TCHC plans to EVICT residents of these buildings who are currently paying market rent.
In case you think you aren’t reading correctly: here is the plan. TCHC plans to take mixed-income buildings, which include residents paying both market rent and residents whose rent is geared to income (RGI), evict the market residents, and replace them with RGI. While TCHC plans to “mix” communities in Regent Park, Lawrence Heights, and elsewhere, this plan will de-mix existing buildings which contain a mix of market and social housing. Furthermore, there is no plan to accommodate these tenants, who have built their own communities and connections in these locations, and who will face a tight rental market with very little affordable housing in the City of Toronto.
Tenants for Social Housing argues that these strategies are socially unjust.
OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION ON SELLING SOCIAL HOUSING:
Check out the Wellesley Institute’s commentary on the proposed sale of TCHC homes: “Sell-off of 900 homes: Facts and opinions.”
Also check out the Wellesley Institute’s article “TCHC dollars and sense: Calculating costs of selling off 22 affordable homes“