Edna Rose prides herself on the flowers that bloom in the garden of her Jane and Finch-area apartment, but next door there are boarded up windows and construction fences.
Toronto Community Housing (TCH) has announced plans to tear down Rose's building and six other "rapidly deteriorating" townhomes near Jane Street and Fingrove Crescent, according to a letter sent to tenants.
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Rose, who has lived in her unit since 1986, will be forced to move out this summer. She doesn't know where she'll wind up — she's heard Regent Park or Lawrence Heights — but the 75-year-old said moving away from her doctor, church and job as a school crossing guard will take everything out of her. She's also skeptical of TCH's claim that her building will be replaced.
"If they can't find the money to repair it, how are they going to rebuild it?" Rose asked during an interview with CBC Toronto.
At city hall, Mayor John Tory issued a stark warning Thursday that more people may wind up in situations like Rose's if the provincial and federal government don't provide more funding for affordable housing.
"There will be units where we have no choice but to close them," Tory said.
Rose has teamed up with ACORN, the anti-poverty group, to see if there's any way she can stay in her home. She said if she and others have to move, she hopes Tory has a plan.
"Where is he going to put everybody? In his house?"
TCH says 550 housing units have been boarded up
Greg Spearn, TCH's president and CEO, said there's a "robust" repair plan in place, but TCH will likely run out of repair money by the end of 2017.
'There has been some money that's been contributed for 2017 — it doesn't come near to meeting the need that we have.' - Greg Spearn, President and CEO of Torotno Community Housing
The housing agency says it needs $2.6 billion to complete its 10-year plan to bring all of its units up to "fair" condition. There's also damage that's easier to see, like a TCH highrise in Scarborough where several storeys worth of a brick veneer crashed to the ground.
Nearly two years later, it still hasn't been repaired.
Some 550 of the corporation's 58,500 units across the city have "failed" and been boarded up because they were deemed unsafe, TCH said in a statement. More than half of those units are beyond repair, TCH said.
In 2017, about 425 units will be closed, something the corporation said it does only as a last resort. The agency does pay for the moving fees.
John Tory asks for more federal, provincial help
Tory, who met with federal and provincial Liberal politicians, said there is a glimmer of hope in this area.
"It is time for these other governments to come to the table," Tory said.
The Canadian government may allow Toronto to put federal infrastructure funding toward repairing affordable housing, Tory said.
The mayor is also hoping for more money from the province, saying so far Premier Kathleen Wynne's government has only given "very modest energy retrofitting funding."
Ontario said in a news release that its Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy has given the city some $1.2 billion for affordable housing since 2003, including but not limited to:
- A $197 million extension of the Affordable Housing Program for 2014-2020.
- $42.9 million for the Social Housing Apartment Retrofit Program in 2016-2018.
- $20.6 million in annual funding for the Strong Communities Rent Supplement Program.
Spearn said he's hopeful help is on the way this year.
"There has been some money that's been contributed for 2017 — it doesn't come near to meeting the need that we have," he said.
Toronto-area Liberal MPs Adam Vaughan and Marco Mendicino both agreed Toronto needs more support following the meeting.
"The needs are obvious," Mendicino said, adding he's optimistic there will be more funding in the future.