Former mayor Art Eggleton to lead task force, and will look at restructuring the housing agency.
With a six person task force announced this morning to look at the TCHC, John Tory is following through on one of his campaign promises.
Led by former mayor Art Eggleton, the task force will look at restructuring the TCHC, including decentralizing the social housing agency. It’s an idea that has been kicking around for a while, and has been mentioned in the past both by TCHC senior executives and former mayoral candidate David Soknacki.
The TCHC has existed in its current structure since 2002, when Cityhome and the Metro Toronto Housing Corporation merged following provincial downloading of housing responsibilities to the city. The TCHC is the second largest social housing agency in North America (New York is the largest), and faces daunting challenges to adequately serve its 164,000 residents.
There is an existing $860 million capital repair backlog, a total that is projected to grow to $3.6 billion over the next decade if nothing else is done. Interim TCHC CEO Greg Spearn has referred to this as a “tsunami of costs” that needs immediate attention, although this morning Tory stopped short of referring to it as a “crisis,” a term he used to describe the situation as recently as November. If the TCHC does not receive $864 million in funding from both the federal and provincial government by 2016, another 4,000 units (housing around 10,000 people) will go into critical condition; many units that were built 50 years ago are at the end of their useful lifespan. But this is not an easy task, as both orders of government aim to balance their budget, and have provided dwindling investment in social housing for years.
The waitlist for social housing is also a great concern. As of November 2014, the waitlist for the TCHC was 91,800 units long. It can take many residents over seven years to be offered affordable housing at the TCHC.
The TCHC has also lacked stable leadership over the past few years. In April 2014, Ford-backed CEO Gene Jones left the organization after an HR scandal. He had been selected to replace Keiko Nakamura, who had been let go in March 2011 following an auditor’s-general report that was critical of the agency’s procurement practices.
The motivation to restructure or decentralize the TCHC is borne of the agency’s recent difficulties, and the idea that a more nimble organization could better respond to its many vulnerable and marginalized residents. But it also comes from a place that realizes that the status quo is not enough to serve residents, and that the agency needs to find a way to secure its future.
In addition to Eggleton, the other people on the task force include:
- Ed Clark, former CEO of TD Bank
- Blake Hutcheon, CEO of Oxford Properties Group
- Janet Mason, a U of T public policy professor
- Muna Mohamed, a TCHC tenant representative
- Brian F.C. Smith, former president of WoodGreen