Punched walls. Torn-up kitchens. Do-it-yourself flooring jobs.
Coun. Scott Duvall has seen them all in Hamilton social housing units, and he wants to see what the city can do about it.
Duvall will approach the Hamilton housing board at a meeting next week to learn more about a problem he says is costing taxpayers "a fortune." The city is spending as much as $60,000 per unit fixing rental units left in disrepair by previous tenants, he said.
Not all tenants are bad, he said. Most care for their units.
But three townhouse units currently sit vacant in his Central Mountain ward awaiting a combined $140,000 in repairs, he said. The damage done by the previous tenants is "unbelievable."
"It's given me a clear picture that there are some severe problems," he said. "This would not be happening in private industry."
Social housing by the numbers
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Number of social housing units in Hamilton:
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Members of the emergency and community services committee examined the issue at a meeting Monday. Councillors voted to spend $900,000 to fix and renovate social housing units — $500,000 requested by staff, and another $400,000 from the social housing reserve to try to catch up with needed repairs.
Over the next 10 years, Hamilton will need to spend more than $280 million to repair its some 14,600 social housing units, said Gillian Hendry, director of housing services.
Not all of that is tenant damage, she said. Some of it is ordinary wear and tear, such as fresh paint and new carpets.
But taxpayers shouldn't pay more than necessary, said Duvall, who sits on the housing board. Currently, the only recourse the city has when a unit sustains unreasonable damage is to take the tenant to court.
Even if the court rules in the city's favour, he said, the former tenant often lacks the resources to pay for the damages anyway.
Duvall said his eyes were opened when he accompanied city staff on some housing inspections. He saw three-, four- and five-bedroom townhouses in his ward with damaged that "flabbergasted" him, he said.
"It was like somebody went in your house and took a sledgehammer to it and just started banging stuff."
Hendry estimates there are about 20 damaged units awaiting repair in the city. Each could cost an estimated $50,000 to $75,000 to repair.
With the new money, city staff will take proposals from social housing providers around the city.
"We're very grateful to council for any approvals for extra funding," she said.
Hamilton has a shortage of affordable housing. In February, 5,413 households were on the waiting list, Hendry said.
About 22,000 Hamiltonians live in social housing.