Social housing gets millions for repairs

WORKERS tear out the tiles from a shower at 2 Brahmns Ave.

TCH gets $36 mil for upgrades
Money for new kitchens and baths
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally published July 23.08 for Town Crier.)

She waited 30 months to move into her social housing apartment, including a month-long stay in a shelter fleeing an abusive relationship.
But when the 22-year-old North York resident and her toddler got their new apartment in May she discovered the toilet flooded her bathroom floor and leaked into the unit below. 
It was fixed, but the problem returned. 
Soon the single mother, who asked not to be identified, won’t have to worry about her downstairs neighbours every time she flushes. 
Thanks to $36.4 million in provincial money to tackle a backlog of repairs to social housing in Toronto, she’ll be getting a new bathroom.“I think it’s nice, but the bathroom isn’t my main concern,” she said from her apartment. 
She said ceiling tiles are missing in the hallway with water dripping down as people walk by. But that repair may have to wait for another day.

Meanwhile on July 23, the Town Crier got a tour of the bathroom work in progress in housing units near Don Mills Rd. and Finch Ave. East. 
Kerrie McQuaig, project manager of Toronto Community Housing’s portfolio of 58,500 rent-geared-to-income housing, rhymes off some of the problems she has to deal with. 
“Rusted out tubs, water that leaks into unit below, sinks falling off the wall, mold…” she said. 
Bathrooms will also be made more efficient with new taps and lighting and by replacing 13-litre toilets with water-efficient 6-litre variety. 
Grab bars on showers make it safer for residents, she added. 
Some kitchens being renovated have rotting counters and cabinet doors that no longer open or stay on their hinges. 
“These kitchens are 20, 30, 40 or even 50-years-old in some of our buildings,” she said. “We go for worst case units so they (become) functional for families.” 
The taxpayers can rest assured it’s a good investment of their dollars she said.
“We get our revenue from renting out units. We are upkeeping our business,” McQuaig said. 
Don Valley East councillor Shelley Carroll says she’s pleased the money will help put more social housing on the market. 
“Part of this investment is for the 138 vacant units so it speaks to the 60,000 people on the waiting list,” she said. 
As of June 30, the waiting list for TCH units was 66,675 households, according to Housing Connections, which processes all these applications. 
Fixing up almost 140 units will help so people can move off the waiting list sooner, said Carroll. 
Two vacant units in separate complexes on Shaughnessy Blvd. and Roywood Dr. will have $40,000 in repairs done.
As well, a local investment of $374,000 will go to refurbish bathrooms and kitchens at Parkwoods Rayoak housing complex. 
“Anyone living in Toronto Community Housing will be heartened,” Carroll said. “What’s been making tenants living in low income (housing) angry for so long is seeing cosmetic changes done when (their) bathroom is unusable.” 
Councillor Howard Moscoe said he is happy the city is tackling the repair backlog. Another $75 million from the sale of Toronto Hydro Telecom will be also used on repairs. 
But Moscoe is conscious of the fact that $111 million is only one third of the social housing repair backlog. He has asked TCH to look at refinancing so a portion of the money can be stretched for future repairs. 
TCH’s CEO Derek Ballantyne said the cash will help. 
“Tenants have been asking for this for a long time,” he said. “So we are happy to be able to do that.”
TCH spends about $50 million annually on needed repairs. Each year an additional $30 million in repairs gets added to the list so the backlog keeps growing.
“The gap between the amount we can put in and what we have is $350 million,” said Ballantyne. “We have been fairly clear. Not all the housing we provide is up to the standard we’d like. It’s chronic underfunding that has left us in this condition.”
He said the federal government has been absent from funding capital work for existing social housing. The provincial money is a one-time cash allotment.
This means it falls on the city that is the sole owner of TCH.
“As much as there’s been criticism,” he said. “Over the last five years we have invested $550 million.”


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