Some of the residents in one of Toronto’s oldest community housing complexes have waited as long as seven years for the City of Toronto to make property standards repairs. Vendome Place, located near Flemingdon Park, at Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue, is in the heart of a multicultural neighbourhood that has long served as a home for new Canadians looking for affordable housing in the city. The community was proposed in 1958 as Canada’s first planned “apartment city”, with construction finishing in the early 1970s. According to census data, Flemingdon Park had a population of 22,205 people and an average annual income of $35,192 in 2011. The buildings that make up Vendome Place are home to many of these people.
Data released by the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards department shows over 100 tenant complaints that have been made to the city, with some dating back to 2010. A significant portion of these complaints are still classified as “open”.
The most common reported issues have revolved around the conditions of the exterior buildings and facilities. A still open complaint placed from 1 Vendome Place in December 2016 reported that the unit’s ventilation system was consistently not in a working condition.
“The crime and police in itself is one thing. Mine in particular is how things are done. You can put in a work order, you might get it dealt with, you might not,” said a resident in the buildings, who asked to remain anonymous.
The crime and police in itself is one thing. Mine in particular is how things are done. You can put in a work order, you might get it dealt with, you might not. —A Vendome Place resident
Another tenant, who didn’t want her name used, described to the Toronto Observer how it took a month for a hanging light fixture with exposed wires in their living room to be fixed. She also described other exterior damage, like broken sprinklers and smashed up benches, that had been in a state of disrepair for years.
Toronto Observer reporters were invited by some tenants to investigate the area and immediately noticed a variety of problems in the buildings. Most walls were marked with some form of graffiti and stairwells between apartments were consistently dirty, with cigarette butts and papers strewn on the floor. One building had a boarded up window while another had a large dent in its metal front door. The underground parking garage didn’t fare much better with a similar level of mess and cobwebs filling the corners.
Toronto Community Housing senior communications advisor Brayden Akers commented that he was not aware of any issues in the common areas of Vendome Place, but noted that he would have to look into it. When pressed about the corporation’s response to tenant maintenance requests, Akers explained in an email saying that the Toronto Community Housing Corporation currently faces a $2.6 billion deficit in capital repair needs. According to Akers, it has secured only $919 million and thus it must prioritize repairs to keep as many units open as possible. Toronto Community Housing is already expecting to close 400 units this year, which would total over 1,000 units closed due to disrepair, he said.
According to Akers, 70 per cent of routine maintenance requests were resolved within five days, while 90 per cent of emergency requests were resolved within four hours. In 2016, Toronto Community Housing received nearly 300,000 maintenance requests.
Akers also added that the residents were sometimes the biggest impediment.
“Tenants make complaints, or they don’t make complaints, and they won’t let us into their units to make the repairs. It’s something that happens quite frequently,” he said.
Tenants make complaints, or they don’t make complaints, and they won’t let us into their units to make the repairs. It’s something that happens quite frequently. —Toronto Community Housing senior communications advisor Brayden Akers
A report published in January 2017 looked at the lack of funding for community housing. According to that report Toronto Community Housing will go through the $1 billion contributed from the city for repairs by the end of the year. Without sufficient funding the agency could face boarding up a unit per day in the following year.
Toronto Community Housing’s capital initiatives budget proposal has asked the provincial and federal governments to step in and help with finances, describing an “imminent spike in repair needs over the next 10 years” as more and more buildings reach the end of their life cycles. According to the TCH capital repairs report, Vendome Place is currently undergoing grounds, electrical, garage and building repairs with further maintenance planned, though specific details remain unclear.