Aging community housing buildings in need of repair

'Most are reaching the end of their useful life at the same time,' says Toronto Community Housing spokesperson

A Toronto Community Housing building is seen under improvement in a 2010 file photo.
A Toronto Community Housing building is seen under improvement in a 2010 file photo. (- Observer file photo)

A recently released report has brought attention back to the need for capital funding in order to repair Toronto’s aging community housing.

The report, released by the Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) last month, had several goals, highlighted by an action plan to ‘Improve building conditions.’

According to to a survey conducted by the TCHC, 30 per cent of residents were dissatisfied with the condition of their building and “building conditions [are] identified as a primary driver of dissatisfaction with Toronto community housing in general.”

This follows a report released at the end of March by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis, which warned that capital funding was badly needed by the TCHC. This report also tied improvements to Toronto Community Housing to increased social and economic opportunity.

“Should no investment have been made into capital repair. .. 55 per cent of TCHC’s dwellings would be in poor or critical condition by 2023, with a further 36 per cent of the portfolio having been closed,” the report stated.

Additionally, another 1,547 people will experience homelessness by 2023 without “funding from the provincial and federal governments,” it warned.

The findings came as no surprise to the city, says Coun. Ana Bailão, chair of the Affordable Housing Committee.

“It’s proven what we’ve been saying,” said Bailão. “We knew that this kind of investment would bring in a lot of saving … we now have the proof and the numbers to demonstrate to other levels of government.”

The majority of TCHC buildings are more than 50 years old, and TCHC spokesperson Brayden Akers said via email, “most are reaching the end of their useful life at the same time.”

“The majority of our investments are in major essential building components like mechanical systems, roofing, envelope repairs, life safety systems and structural repairs. As buildings reach critical condition, the risk of a major component failing, such as a roof or boiler, increases,” Akers said.

Bailão agreed saying, “Most of these buildings were built in the ’60s and ’70, and like any home in Toronto they are in need of major capital repairs and improvements.”

The chart below created by the Observer, illustrates the building date of all TCHC buildings with more than six units. Two buildings had no construction date given. All data was taken from Toronto’s Open Data catalogue.

The report goes on to say that repair and further investment into the TCHC will reduce health costs, homelessness and crime while creating thousands of jobs.

“This an opportunity to give a safe, healthy and decent roof to 60,000 households,” Bailão. “It’s also the opportunity to have economic development created … you are creating thousands of jobs.”

According to Akers, in “2015 alone” capital repair work had already created 2,300 jobs across the city.

“Investing in our housing has economic impacts across the city … an additional 5,600 jobs [will be] created in 2016 as our investments ramp up,” Akers continued.

Using data from Toronto’s Open Data Catalogue, the Observer has created the following map, which breaks down community housing buildings by ward. It should be noted that buildings with fewer than six units are not represented in this data.

This additional graphic created by the Observer is an individual breakdown of every community housing building with more than six units. Information included is developer, building date, unit number and building type.

A 10-year capital funding plan developed by the TCHC and the City of Toronto calls for $2.6 billion to be spent on repairs.

The city has already contributed $86 million towards the plan and has asked for additional aid.

York West is one of the wards in Toronto with the highest number of TCHC buildings within its boundaries. The councillor for Ward 8, Anthony Perruzza said the other levels of government need to pay up.

“Provincial and federal participation and their contributions are absolutely critical for Toronto Community Housing to keep its units in good repair.”

According to Bailão, this contribution is an opportunity for federal and provincial levels of government.

“These governments will not only recuperate the money they invest through taxes and the economic spinoff that is created by the repairs, but they will save millions of dollars in healthcare. They will save millions of dollars in safety and security,” Bailão stressed.

Assuming that the Capital Investment Plan receives provincial and federal support, the TCHC’s first priority with the additional funding is to continue to invest in additional capital repair.

“By making these planned investments over ten years, we can get our portfolio into a condition where we can make ongoing regular maintenance repairs through our operating budget,” Akers said.

How would large-scale repairs impact residents? Akers said that the TCHC attempts to limit the impact that any construction has on residents.

“Program contractors typically need access to a unit for a normal working day to conduct … in-suite repairs,” Akers said.

However, for larger projects the TCHC takes additional measures including “having contractors work during normal daytime hours to limit the impact on residents,” Akers said.

But despite this, Bailão thinks that residents will be understanding of any impacts of construction and repair.

“The benefits outweigh the inconvenience of some temporary construction.”