Toronto’s crumbling community housing stock is receiving some much-needed financial support to the tune of 1.3 billion, making it the largest federal housing investment in the city’s history. The unprecedented funding will be used towards repairs and renovations to some 58,000 affordable housing units over a 10-year period, a sum that should provide considerable relief to the $1.6 billion repair backlog that was projected to escalate to around $3 billion by next decade.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor John Tory made the historic investment announcement at a Toronto Community Housing (TCH) building in Scarborough on April 5th, 2019.
“All parents want to give their children the best possible start in life, and that starts with making sure they have a safe and comfortable home,” PM Trudeau said. “Today’s announcement is about investing in the people of Toronto, and giving them the opportunity they deserve to build bright futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.”
About $810 million of the federal money will come in the form of loans, while $530 million will come in contributions over the ten-year period beginning this spring.
Newly appointed TCH president and CEO Kevin Marshman commended the government’s commitment to improving living conditions, energy efficiency and accessibility for thousands of people who call its community housing buildings home. “I sincerely thank our federal partners, Mayor Tory and council, and the City of Toronto for this tremendous boost to our capital plan and for their support for improving the lives of our 110,000 tenants,” he said in a statement.
Marshman, a seasoned senior executive with over 35 years in the business services and technology sectors, is TCH’s fourth CEO in eight years. The previous CEO, Kathy Milsom, was fired in early February following allegations that she’d “exercised undue influence” on a process that awarded a contract to a management consultant company.
Since the agency’s inception in 2002, at least three CEOs were similarly ousted for reasons involving excessive spending or improper tendering of contracts. Marshman has indicated in recent interviews leading up to his appointment that the management turmoil of the past will cease, and that the organization will “continue to move forward” and “improve the living conditions of its tenants.”
Digging deep: repairs, retrofits and accessibility upgrades
One of TCH’s 2,200 buildings emblematic of the urgent care needed is Adanac Apartments, the site of the federal funding announcement and soon-to-be busy construction zone. Built in 1970 and standing 16 storeys tall, the Scarborough high-rise contains 306 residential units occupied by low income tenants.
According to TCH, $5.7 million will be used towards making necessary upgrades. Projects will include: exterior building repairs, the replacement of windows and balconies, energy efficiency retrofits and projects aimed at enhancing tenant comfort.
Accessibility improvements will also be made to both the units and the building’s entrances and common rooms, while the vestibule, lobby, common areas, and laundry rooms will be redesigned to meet accessibility standards.
On the energy-efficiency front, retrofits will include:
- Replacement of building heating/cooling systems, equipment and associated sub‐components to improve ventilation and air quality
- Upgrade of windows and exterior doors
- Upgrade of plumbing fixtures
- Upgrade of lighting systems, including converting to light‐emitting diode (LED) lighting systems, lighting controls, and sensors
- Upgrade, repair and remediation of building envelope and balconies
“The Co-Investment Fund brings us closer than ever before to the day when all our buildings are in good repair and all our tenants live in clean, safe, well-maintained homes,” Marshman said.
Meanwhile, earlier this year the City of Toronto announced it had pledged $313 million toward community housing repairs in 2019, which would benefit approximately 1,500 buildings across the city. But all tolled, after decades of neglect and under-funding, will these investments be enough?
“I don’t think so much about units or about dollars,” Mayor Tory told reporters. “I think about the people who are living in those buildings across the city. This is going to make their lives better.”