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Toronto Community Housing shelves $2M office reno plan

Toronto Community Housing — which has a repair backlog of more than $750 million — has shelved a proposal to spend $2 million on a renovation of its headquarters, nicer office furniture for its staff and bigger digs for its chief executive.

'I don't think it's something that we can justify' to taxpayers, Coun. Maria Augimeri says

Toronto Community Housing — which has a repair backlog of more than $750 million — has shelved a proposal to spend $2 million on a headquarters renovation, nicer office furniture and bigger digs for its CEO. 2:07

Toronto Community Housing has shelved a proposal to spend $2 million on a renovation of its headquarters, nicer office furniture for its staff and bigger digs for its chief executive.

The public housing agency's board had questions about the plan at its meeting Thursday, and put it off.

TCHC CEO Gene Jones says his office 'looks like a little manager's office, it's so small.' (CBC)

"I don't think it's something that we can justify to either the taxpayers of the City of Toronto or our tenant base," said Coun. Maria Augimeri, who sits on the Toronto Community Housing Corporation board.

TCHC currently has a backlog of between $750 million and $1 billion in needed repairs at its more than 350 buildings.

The proposal called for TCHC to lease additional office space at 777 Bay St., plus spend $2 million renovating its headquarters at 931 Yonge St. and buying "more efficient" furniture, according to the meeting agenda.

Chief executive Gene Jones said he and his chief operating officer need more space to work, as do his staff.

"Look at my office, look at  the COO office — it looks like a little manager's office, it's so small," Jones said. "My staff are sitting on top of each other, manoeuvring. They're trying to find a desk and so forth."

Waited months

The housing agency's tenants, however, want more money spent getting their apartments up to snuff.

Upgrades to TCHC headquarters at 931 Yonge St. would include new carpets, toilets and light fixtures, as well as a fresh coat of paint, according to documents. (CBC)

"They have mice, they have big problems with the cockroaches and big problems with the bed bugs," said TCHC resident Tivadar Toth of units in his building.

Nazim Bushi, another tenant, said he has been waiting months to get his rotting kitchen cabinets repaired.

"Apartments like have to be clean, we don't have to live with the roaches and we don't have to live with the bed bugs," he said.

Jones instructs staff to 'step back'

Jones eventually relented. In a letter on Friday addressed to TCHC's chair of the board of directors, Bud Purves, Jones said he had asked his staff to "step back" and reassess their plan, as well as to "make the best use of our existing office space."

"I am withdrawing our proposal to renovate 931 Yonge St. and lease office space at 777 Bay St. from the agenda for the December 11th board meeting," Jones wrote, citing a need to improve resident access to services, save for housing repairs and improve operational efficiency.

The TCHC board will reconsider the headquarters renovations at a meeting in December.

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