Thursday, April 02, 2009

Stop the Sell-Off of Public Housing in Toronto

TCHC Plans to Sell 350 Apt. Units and Houses
by Levi Waldron and Ryan Newell (OCAP)
BASICS Issue #13 (April/May)

The Toronto Community Housing Corporation is responding to the financial crisis and sharp drop in real estate prices by proposing the sell-off of 326 apartment units and 45 single-family homes of public housing (see a map with photos of these properties at

Meanwhile, the waiting list for social housing in the city of Toronto stands at an astonishing 70,000 and many TCH tenants already find it impossible to obtain transfers, especially to larger family-sized units.

TCHC management says that they are only selling properties that no one wants to live in, with high property values that will allow them to replace the units while saving money to put into repairs. However, seen alongside the ambitious “revitalization” plans for low-income neighbourhoods across the city in Regent Park, Lawrence Heights, Alexandra Park, Edgeley Village, Thistledown and Flemingdon Park, it is clear that this sell-off represents the final stages of gentrification that will occur in other “revitalized” public housing projects once property values are high enough.

Even temporary losses of public housing units have huge effects. One example is seen in the TCHC financial plan for Regent Park (2003, Table 3), which predicted a temporary shortfall of 461 unit-years of housing during redevelopment, plus as much as 2087 unit-years lost because demolitions are counted at the start of the year and new units are counted at the end of the year, meaning as much as 2548 unit-years lost, the equivalent of losing a 100-unit building for 25 years.

Unlike with Regent Park, we have no idea where, when, or with what, these units will be replaced. But they will not be replaced with comparably sized units in the same “mixed” neighbourhoods, or it wouldn’t make sense to sell them in the first place. TCHC wants to sell these units because they are located in desirable neighbourhoods with high property values, where the integration of public housing units in mixed-income areas as promoted in its “revitalization” plans already exists. The truth is that public housing can be repaired or rebuilt, communities can be renewed, without the large-scale sale of peoples’ homes, the demolition of older housing projects, and the dispersal of whole communities.

If the TCHC believes they can quietly carry out this dubious sell-off, they are sorely mistaken. The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has researched the buildings and houses proposed for sale, and found large numbers of vacant units, and houses receiving overdue repairs after they are vacant and slated to be sold. TCHC is trying to ensure a smooth sell-off by allowing dozens of single-family houses and countless apartment units to sit vacant while families in TCHC buildings all over the city wait up to a decade for a transfer to a larger unit. OCAP has also begun meeting tenants who are unwilling to sit on their hands while the city turns a profit by selling the roof over their heads. One such building is 389 Church St, the only women-only apartment complex owned by TCHC. While TCHC’s claim that they simply can’t find enough women who want to live in shared accommodations with other women is hard to believe, it is harder to believe that other solutions can’t be found (for example, women with children are currently not allowed to stay in the building).

TCHC should be prepared to defend its sell-off proposal in the light of day. It is not enough to promise that the units will be replaced and tenants will be relocated: public housing tenants deserve to live with the dignity of knowing their homes are secure and to maintain the connections they have built over years in the neighbourhoods they call home. But it’s not just the tenants currently living in these units who should be concerned and ready to stand up and fight. Social housing is a public asset that was only won out of poor peoples’ struggle, and we cannot silently watch while it is sold off to make room for private developments. OCAP has announced that it is committed to supporting tenants in disrupting the sell-off process at every step along the way.

We need more social housing now! We need repairs for existing units now!

Visit for more information or contact OCAP at 416-925-6939 or

389 Church St, the only women-only apartment complex owned by TCHC, is being put up for sale .