Feds commit $1.3B to repair crumbling Toronto community housing units

The federal government announced a $1.3-billion funding infusion on Friday aimed at helping the city agency that oversees public housing with a $1.6-billion repair backlog.

PM Trudeau says money will help fix 58,000 units over a 10-year period

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) and Toronto Mayor John Tory announced the new funding in Scarborough on Friday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Financial relief to help fix Toronto's decade-long problem of crumbling community housing stock could finally be on the way.

The federal government announced a $1.3-billion funding infusion on Friday aimed at helping the city with a $1.6-billion repair backlog that looked set to balloon to around $3-billion in the next decade.

About $810-million of the federal money will come in the form of loans, while $530-million will be contributions. All of the funding will be distributed over a 10-year period.

The money for overdue repairs to Toronto Community Housing (TCH) buildings will come from the $13.2-billion National Housing Co-Investment Fund, launched in May 2018. The federal initiative hopes to create up to 60,000 new homes and repair some 240,000 existing units nationwide over the next 10 years.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Mayor John Tory at a TCH building in Scarborough to announce the funding boost. The news conference was delayed nearly an hour by protesters who continued to shout while the prime minister spoke.

Trudeau said that while Toronto is known for many great things, it's also infamous for something else.

"And that's sky high housing prices," said Trudeau. "Never mind buying a home, even an apartment is about out of reach for far too many people."

The $1.3 billion will go to renovating some 58,000 TCH units, according to the federal government. The work is scheduled to begin this spring.

"We're going to see much needed renovations. After all, having a roof over your head doesn't cut it if the windows won't close or the plumbing is dodgy," Trudeau said.

Tory and Trudeau met with a group of TCH residents with disabilities before the announcement. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

'Real fixes for real people'

TCH had already budgeted $313 million for repairs this year. Tory noted that 1,500 buildings across Toronto will benefit, not just from being brought into a state of good repair, but also accessibility and energy upgrades.

"I don't think so much about units or about dollars. I think about the people who are living in those buildings across the city," said Tory.

"This is going to make their lives better."

The TCH building picked for the announcement, 140 Adanac Dr., will receive $5.7 million to replace its 50-year-old windows as well as other needed repairs, said Tory.

"We'll be fixing the exterior of the building. We're going to be doing all kinds of things in this building. Real fixes for real people," he said.

Speaking to CBC Toronto, planning and housing committee chair Ana Bailao stressed the gravity of what TCH buildings are facing in the years ahead.

"We know if we don't invest this money, eventually we would have to go back to closing units," she said. "That's what we're talking about."

City staff, in a briefing note earlier this year, also highlighted the growing "state of good repair" backlog Toronto faces in the years ahead — with TCH repairs making up a substantial portion.

Despite nearly $20 billion in investments in the 2019 budget, the backlog estimate for the city's 58,000 units was expected to hit more than $3 billion by 2028, according to the note, which was released back in February prior to the new federal funding announcement.

TCH president and CEO Kevin Marshman applauded today's commitment, which he said would go to improving living conditions, safety and accessibility for thousands of people.

"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," Marshman said in a statement.

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


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