Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

The power of magnets: Ford’s questionable claim of renewing faith in TCHC

By: Metro Published on Mon Mar 10 2014

It sounds nerdy, I know, but I spent some time last week fact-checking the list of accomplishments posted on Mayor Rob Ford’s newly-launched campaign website. At this point it shouldn’t really surprise anyone that a lot of the items on the list were untruthful. Some of them were even based on things that the mayor voted against.

But, hey, we already knew that the mayor and true facts aren’t really the best of friends.

Still, one of the listed items really stuck out and deserves some follow-up. Of Toronto Community Housing Corporation, Ford’s accomplishments page says this: “renewed public faith in TCHC.”

That’s a mighty big claim, and not one that can be easily justified. Sure, a few months into Ford’s term, Toronto’s auditor general uncovered some improprieties with expense policies and procurement practices at TCHC. Ford’s website claims he initiated the investigations, but that’s a stretch — the auditor’s work began in 2010. But Ford did spring into action, leading council to fire the agency’s board of directors and get the CEO to resign.

But here’s the thing: that was three years ago.

Since then, there hasn’t seemed to be very many reasons to keep the faith in TCHC. The unfunded bill for capital maintenance has grown from $612 million in 2010 to $751 million today.

Meanwhile, the waiting list for social housing in Toronto has grown by more than 10,000.

And scandalous headlines still follow TCHC, even with a new board. Last year, the city ombudsman reported that the agency was wrongly evicting senior citizens. More recently, the board decided to give new CEO Gene Jones an executive coach after they concluded he hadn’t exercised “proper management oversight.”

Feeling the faith yet?

Ford’s response to all this has been mostly limited to just two things. First, he championed the sale of hundreds of TCHC homes, a good way to find some quick cash for repairs but kind of a questionable tactic if the goal is to increase the number of affordable housing units.

Ford’s other tactic is the one you’ve seen on TV. He goes to TCHC buildings and does door-to-door spot checks. He hands out a ridiculous number of Ford-branded magnets. A useful thing if a TCHC tenant’s biggest problem is an undecorated fridge door, but probably not something that will improve living situations across the city

Magnets aside, TCHC faces serious problems and Ford hasn’t done much to seriously address them. What Toronto needs is a leader who can both find the funding to address the state-of-good-repair backlog and look at the structural issues that have hobbled TCHC since it was formed in 2002.

In other words, what TCHC needs is someone with an actual plan. That, at least, I could put some faith in.

This post was originally published at on 2014-03-10T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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