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Toronto Community Housing report took the easy route

By: Metro Published on Mon Jul 20 2015

If I had to sum up the interim report issued by Mayor John Tory’s task force on Toronto Community Housing (TCH) last week in a single word, I’d probably go with something like “meh.”

Which, sure, technically isn’t a word, but you get the idea.

It’s not that I really disagree with any of the seven recommendations offered up by the task force, chaired by Senator Art Eggleton. For the most part, they’re sensible reforms aimed at making Toronto’s affordable housing agency run better.

They just don’t go far enough.

The report’s centrepiece is the beginnings of a plan to use the cash made available through the 2015 federal budget for Canadian housing agencies to refinance their mortgages.

It turns out TCH is paying a weighted average of nine per cent interest on its long-term mortgages. Given that interest rates available today are just a smidge over zero per cent, refinancing is expected to free up about $371 million over the next two years. This could be put toward repairs of TCH units.

That’s a positive step. The report’s call for various action plans – on things like security and creating jobs – could also be positive, provided those action plans eventually lead to action.

For instance, is TCH simply too big? About 110,000 people live in TCHC units. If those tenants were to form their own city, they’d be the 44th largest city in Canada, according to 2011 census figures.

Though it’s indisputable that TCH’s biggest problem is a lack of funding, it’s possible that it’s next biggest problem is simply its size.

With a large and unwieldy bureaucracy needed to oversee so many units, it’s no wonder residents report feeling disconnected from the people making decisions.

There are potential strategies to fix this. TCH could be broken up into smaller organizations, with greater opportunity for tenant leadership. The city could look at providing more extensive funding to independent not-for-profit housing agencies. With financial support, some TCHC buildings could be converted to co-op housing.

That’s what real change would look like.

Thankfully, the report released last week was only a first step. The mayor’s task force will bring their final report back to city hall later this year. When they do, I’d urge them not to shy away from big questions. Given the current state of affordable housing in Toronto, this is no time for small thinking.

Matt Elliott lives and writes in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @GraphicMatt

This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/views/toronto/torys-toronto-matt-elliott/2015/07/19/toronto-community-housing-report-took-the-easy-route.html on 2015-07-20T00:00:00.000Z

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