Public housing is falling apart—will older condos be next?

It is not much of a secret that Toronto's social housing is falling apart due to a lack of money to pay for major repairs—in condo terms, a lack of Reserve Funds—but the question is will the older badly rundown condo corporations in Ontario end up in as bad shape?

Probably not because the municipal building inspectors will condemn privately owned buildings when they get as bad as the examples shown below.

The courts will appoint administrators who will have the power to squeeze the needed monies out of the owners to make the needed repairs or the units will be seized and sold by power or sale.

If the corporations are in too bad shape to be repaired, the courts have the power to terminate condo corporations. It hasn't happened yet but it will; its just a matter of time.

Toronto’s social housing is crumbling. How will the federal leaders fix it?
Toronto Star
By: Jennifer Pagliaro City Hall reporter
14 October 2015

Greg Spearn stands where the ceiling is bulging down toward him, the result of water seeping in from the roof over the top-floor apartment.

Now the units below are also at risk in this Toronto Community Housing highrise near Jane St. and Wilson Ave.

The top-floor unit is just one of hundreds TCHC has been forced to close in the past five years.

The lack of repairs due to funding gaps has gotten so bad in buildings like this that they’ve been deemed unfit for human habitation.

There are now 4,000 units at risk of being boarded up in the next three years. And with few other options for rehousing families, officials estimate that could have a devastating impact on some 16,000 people.

City officials, local politicians and housing experts have all deemed it a crisis.
“If we don’t fix these homes, there’s a huge spike in health-care costs coming that are going to far exceed the investment we’re asking the levels of governments for to fix the units in the first place,” said Spearn, Toronto Community Housing’s interim CEO, in a recent interview with the Star.
“So for us, we’re a little frustrated that you can see something clearly ahead of you and it is a wall you’re going to run into and if you don’t do anything about it you will hit the wall.”

In Toronto, 265,000 people live in social housing. The city, through TCHC, governs 58,800 housing units spread across more than 2,200 buildings worth more than $9 billion.

Meanwhile, there are almost 94,000 applications on the public housing waiting list as of July, representing 172,087 people — families and individuals, many vulnerable, waiting to be housed.

That is more than the entire population of Burlington; more than the city of Oshawa.

That list has continued to steadily grow—up from 66,186 households in 2007—in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, which left families struggling to get by as rent and housing prices crept up.

At the same time, TCHC is faced with a $2.6-billion repair backlog over the next 10 years. The reason for the massive price tag? The average age of all TCHC buildings is 40 years, with some that have been standing for 60 years. The $2.6 billion would not transform these buildings into gleaming new apartments and townhouses, just a “fair” state of repair.

The city has committed to a one-third share, at $864 million, which is quickly depleting without contributions from the provincial and federal governments.
City and housing officials are pleading for help.

The city insists the federal government has to maintain the 2015 level of investment—$140 million annually—to keep up with housing needs.

Without it, the city faces a critical cash problem. Looking at that $140- million figure, if you assume a one per cent property tax hike brings in approximately $25 million for the city, taxes would need to be raised by 5.6 per cent —sustained indefinitely—just to cover the federal government’s missing share.

That doesn’t include what is needed from the province or any annual inflationary increases. That money, in a city context, is equivalent to most of the library budget ($188 million) and totally overshadows the $95 million investment in the TTC that will see needed bus and other service improvements promised this year.

Without that federal investment, as well as a provincial commitment, 7,500 units could be shuttered in the next decade, city officials say.

“The system is now at a pivotal moment,” read a June report from city staff to council. “Unless these pressures are finally addressed, the city will see the erosion of its social housing system, limiting the city’s ability to meet the needs of low-income households or to ensure quality housing and services even as the municipal funding share increases.”

While the city now contributes the majority of social housing funds, it wasn’t always this way. The responsibility for social housing was traditionally borne by higher levels of government.

In the 1990s, the federal government was largely subsidizing housing, providing money to the provinces and territories to dole out amongst cities through various agreements. Provinces were soon made to take chief responsibility for funding social housing.

Meanwhile, the province has continued off-loading housing costs onto the city, withdrawing money that was needed to maintain the current portfolio of buildings. At the current rate, the federal government will be contributing nothing to maintain that housing by 2032.

Though there have been some new investments from the province and Ottawa — including $801 million across Ontario over five years, that money cannot be used for repairs.

Spearn says it would have been cheaper in the long run to have kept up with repairs. Now, several buildings are too far gone and need replacing.
“The buildings are simply aging out, and unless they get the repairs, the acceleration of closing them up is going to happen,” he said. “It’s inevitable.”

Aaron Harris/Toronto Star
50 Torbolton Dr.
Built: 1962 Vacated: April 2008

The damage: The structure of the building is no longer sound, with roof leaks compounded by structural issues. TCHC calls it “significant water penetration.” Since it has been boarded up for several years, it’s also suspected the entire building would need serious mould remediation. “We just hadn’t had the funds to keep up with the repairs and it’s at a state now where the cost of repairing it is not worth it essentially,” says TCHC interim CEO Greg Spearn. “My biggest fear is that’s where we’re headed with a lot of our units if we can’t get the financial support we need.”

The cost estimate: $1.7 million

The impact: All 18 of the family units — mostly two-bedroom units, which are in the highest demand — can’t be occupied.

Aaron Harris/Toronto Star
Built: 1967 Vacated: September 2010

The damage: The underground parking garage is starting to break down, causing structural issues for the homes above. Roof repairs and exterior damage have also caused water damage. “The unfortunate result is close to half the units are boarded up and the other half are still lived in, so it’s just not a great community feeling, it’s heartbreaking for us,” says Spearn.

The cost estimate: $5.6 million

The impact: Of the 40 family townhome units in the complex, almost half are not livable, with the rest at risk. Six of the addresses are now vacant.

Aaron Harris/Toronto Star
415 Driftwood
Built: 1967 Vacated: Between 2013 and 2014

The damage: Water seeping through windows and behind the exterior brick has caused major water damage, as rainwater puddles on the floor. On bad days, the water has travelled through the walls and exterior pipes, running all the way to the ground floor.

The cost estimate: $500,000 per unit, plus millions to fix overall structural problems to prevent further damage.

The impact: Most of the 17th floor has been evacuated, for a total of nine mostly two-bedroom units currently not livable. The floors below are at risk of facing a similar fate

Aaron Harris/Toronto Star
20 Falstaff
Built: 1970 Vacated: January 2013

The damage: Structural problems with the roof have allowed water to seep into the top floor of this highrise, causing those units to be evacuated.

The cost estimate: Yet to be determined, but likely $50,000 to $70,000 per unit, and another $1 million to fix the roof.

The impact: Most of the top-floor units, several of them two bedrooms, have been vacated, with possible future problems for the floors below as the roof continues to leak.

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