Malvern’s Lowry Square hard hit by Toronto’s plans to sell off public housing

Toronto Community Housing (TCH) tenant Tina Chaisson might have to move out of her house on very short notice.

She did not know that her unit was on a “to-be-sold” list on a recent TCH report until her neighbours told her InsideToronto.com published a photo of her unit on its website.

The photo was part of an article detailing that Toronto Community Housing is selling 706 homes across the city, including hers.

The plan has been up for consideration since Oct. 14 at TCH’s Yonge St. headquarters.

Kyle Rooks, media relations manager at TCH explained in an email interview: “Once we have approvals, we will sell the houses on the open market, to the highest bidder, using a fair, open, transparent process, so we can raise as much money as possible to pay for capital repairs.  We will start with 70 vacant houses, then proceed to sell houses where tenants are overhoused, where repairs are most expensive and where the value of the property is greatest.”

Toronto Community Housing is obviously trying to make money,” Chaisson said.  “It is not fair to residents who have already settled down here

— Tina Chaisson

The main reason for the sales, Rooks said, is to unload “scattered units”, since the authority claimed it cost twice as much money than to maintain one low-rise apartment.

“Toronto Community Housing is obviously trying to make money,” Chaisson said.  “It is not fair to residents who have already settled down here.  There is still a long waiting list for community housing units around this area.  Now these people would feel like they have been waiting in vain all this time.”

Affordable, convenient community

Having moved into a single-family unit at Malvern’s Lowry Square five years ago, Chaisson explained that she depended on community housing because of her low income.  She has to support her family, including expenses of her children still in school.

“I want to stay here because I have jobs around this neighbourhood and is within walking distance from my house,” Chaisson said.

Chaisson also mentioned one of the main reasons she wanted to stay at her house was because of her neighbours.

“They don’t like me leaving because they like me,” she said.

She called TCH after reading InsideToronto.com’s article on Oct 19.  TCH promised her someone would get back to her within 48 hours, but since then, she has not been given a response.

Chaisson was not the only person dissatisfied with TCH’s decision.

“I wouldn’t really like to be evacuated somewhere else,” Alheim Morris, a sales representative living at another single-home community housing unit at Lowry Square said.

“I am already used to this neighbourhood. The whole point of this is irrelevant. There is a slim possibility that where they’re moving us to is better than this place.”

He was unhappy with the fact that he might have to vacate his house after a few months of moving in with his family.

Toronto Community Housing properties recommended for sale in Scarborough
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Scattered throughout Scarborough, houses that were on TCH’s list to be sold were clustered in Wexford, Orton Park and Malvern.

In Malvern, about 45 houses were on the list, with 13 of them situated on Lowry Square.

The sale plan’s report pointed out a repair backlog for aged community housing.  The costs have risen from $322 million in 2008 to $605 million this year.

“We understand there are tenants who don’t want to move,” Rooks said.  “But we must act.  Without change, more of our housing will fall into disrepair, tenants will wait longer for unit and building improvements, and people will wait longer for access to the housing they need.”

He also mentioned the TCH will pay for moving costs and provide support to residents who are asked to move out.

Social housing veteran Joy Connelly, who started the blog Opening the Window, said she thinks there are alternatives to selling the houses.

“I’m sympathetic to TCH’s dilemma,” she said. “TCH does need to raise money to repair their buildings, and the scattered houses have been difficult and expensive for them to manage.”

But, Connelly said, there are other options, including affordable home ownership, that would help low-income families, preserve mixed-income communities and still give TCH money for repairs.

“I’m not a tenant,” she said. “But I know how I’d feel if I learned through the grapevine that the city planned to expropriate my home. I also know that once these houses are gone, the city can never get them back.

“It’s worth taking the time now to figure out the best solution for each property. For everybody’s sake, we’ve got to get this right.”

 

CORRECTION | Nov. 2

Joy Connelly was incorrectly quoted in an earlier version of this article originally published online on Oct. 31.

The Toronto Observer regrets the error in transcription and apologizes for the mistake.