Toronto

Ottawa's $1.3B investment is 'critically urgent' to fix Toronto's affordable housing, TCH head says

Financial relief from the federal Liberal government is "critically urgent" in helping to fix Toronto's decade-long problem of crumbling affordable housing stock and will allow Toronto Community Housing (TCH) provide tenants with the "best possible space," chief executive touts.  

Social housing agency plans to renovate some 58,000 units starting this spring

Ottawa announced new federal funding last Friday aimed at helping the city tackle a $1.6-billion repair backlog at Toronto Community Housing buildings. (John Rieti/CBC)

Financial relief from the federal Liberal government is "critically urgent" in helping to fix Toronto's decade-long problem of crumbling affordable housing stock and will allow Toronto Community Housing (TCH) to deliver the "best possible space" for tenants, the head of the organization says.  

Kevin Marshman, who recently assumed TCH's top job, claims the $1.3-billion funding infusion will ensure residents "can live safely and securely." 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the funding boost last Friday to assist Canada's largest social housing provider. It is currently facing a $1.6 billion repair backlog that looks set to balloon to around $3 billion in the next decade.

He told CBC Radio's Metro Morning building conditions that have been languishing for years will benefit from Ottawa's investment: not just from being brought into a state of good repair, but also from accessibility and energy upgrades.

"Our tenants want buildings that are warm in the winter and cool in the summer, that they can feel proud to live in and that are accessible," said Marshman, TCH president and CEO. 

Our tenants often live in conditions that are not ideal.- Kevin Marshman, TCH president and CEO

All of the funding — infused from the $13.2-billion National Housing Co-Investment Fund — will be distributed over a 10-year period. The $1.3 billion will go to renovating some 58,000 TCH units starting this spring.

"We have a priority plan that addressed the most urgent needs of the portfolio first, and we'll continue to work through the plan so that by the end of this ... we will have buildings that are safe, secure," he said. 

Financial relief will allow Toronto Community Housing to ensure buildings are brought into a state of good repair so tenants are 'proud to live' there, President and CEO Kevin Marshman says. (CBC)

In an unexpected move, Marshman even claimed closures like that of the crumbling townhouse complex on Firgrove Crescent in the Jane and Finch area in 2017, will not happen again. "That is a promise," he said. 

At the time, tenants and former Toronto mayor John Sewell called the move a "major failure" and criticized the city for failing to make sure replacement buildings were ready before residents are displaced. 

"We will certainly relocate people as we are doing revitalization because that's tearing down and rebuilding the building the building itself, but this capital repair program will allow us to fix the buildings in time, before that's required," Marshman said.

TCH has already budgeted $313 million for repairs this year to improve living conditions for its 110,000 tenants. According to Marshman, this includes replacing cracked and leaking window, boilers that don't provide effective heat and upgrading cladding on building roofs. 

"Our tenants often live in conditions that are not ideal," he conceded. 

The public housing agency has also had to deal with mismanagement over the past few years. Marshman is its fourth CEO in eight years. The previous head, Kathy Milsom, was fired with cause in late-February for influencing the awarding of a contract to a management consulting company.

Marshman has committed to continuing TCH's mission to deliver better affordable living spaces.

"Our priority is to provide you with the best possible space that we can and move as quickly as we can to repair buildings, to be responsive to requests for assistance, and to be empathetic," he said in a message to TCH residents.

With files CBC Radio's Metro Morning and Lauren Pelley

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