City initiatives

Final Report of the Mayor's Task Force on Toronto Community Housing

The final report from the Mayor's Task Force on Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) was tabled by the Mayor at the January 28, 2016 Executive Committee. The Committee unanimously voted to refer the report to the City Manager for an initial assessment of the recommendations and underlying assumptions and principles.

A staff report is planned for Spring 2016 and will recommend an overall approach and guiding principles for how best to move forward with the transformation of TCHC. A second report is to be delivered in Fall 2016 to outline a detailed long term implementation plan for the transformation.

Public consultations

The public is invited to provide feedback on the Task Force recommendations.

Executive Summary

In January, 2015 Mayor John Tory appointed six volunteer members of the Mayor’s Task Force on Toronto Community Housing Corporation and asked them to offer advice on “how to strengthen and support the delivery of housing to its residents, now and in the future.” Their focus was four-fold: operations and delivery; partnerships and innovation; capital revitalization and new development; and governance.

Over the course of the year, the Task Force heard from over 1,000 tenants and community members, almost 100 different stakeholder groups, officials from the City, the Province and Federal governments, and housing experts from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. The Task Force immersed itself in the challenges and opportunities of Canada’s largest housing provider.

The Task Force has found that Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) is an organization that, because of its history and structure, is unsustainable financially, socially and from an operating and governance perspective. It is at the centre of a crisis that has been thirty years in the making.

Our Interim Report, released in July 2015, highlighted the operational challenges faced by the organization. It discussed the fact that many of TCHC’s 110,000 tenants are dissatisfied with the state of repair and cleanliness of their buildings. Many do not feel safe in their homes because of social disorder and criminal activity in their neighbourhoods. Vulnerable residents lack ready access to services to deal with mental health, addiction, hoarding and aging. At the same time, TCHC struggles with an ever growing backlog of capital repairs, inadequate operating funding, and the need to manage tenant issues for which the company is not adequately resourced. The City also faces an affordable housing crisis that needs a solution.

This Final Report includes a total of 29 recommendations directed at the City, the Province, the Federal government and TCHC on a range of issues considered by the Task Force. The Task Force vision for transformative change is outlined through five central ideas:

  1. Transition to a new community-based non-profit housing corporation. Foster independence and a resident focus and operate at arm’s length from the City. The report recommends two methods that can be selected:
    • Manage Now. Own Incrementally – the City creates a new independent community-based non-profit housing corporation (referred to in the Report as NewHome) to manage TCHC’s properties. The City would retain TCHC as a development and asset renewal company. As properties become viable, they could be transferred to NewHome or other non-profit housing providers.
    • Reform First. Then Transfer – in this model, TCHC would be divided into three distinct divisions: operations, development and corporate services. A General Manager would head each division. A small head office team would coordinate the overall corporation. This would allow for a greater separation of the distinct functions.

      As a non-profit, TCHC/NewHome would probably be able to increase borrowing capacity by being removed from the City’s balance sheet. TCHC/NewHome would be accountable to the City and taxpayers in the same way all of the other 240 non-profit housing corporations in Toronto are.

  2. Create mixed-income communities. This will create a positive social mix in TCHC communities and increase revenue. Renegotiate the rent geared to income targets between the City and TCHC to move to a more mixed portfolio of 70% subsidized renters. The Task Force is not proposing any reduction in subsidies – 52,600 households are subsidized by TCHC now – they should be kept at least at current levels. The City can reallocate those subsidies to other partners – for example, to non-profit or co-op housing providers, to new affordable housing buildings or in the private market with private sector landlords. This in conjunction with significant financial strategies outlined here will enable TCHC to have a solid financial foundation.

  3. Better buildings and more of them. Revitalize the portfolio, funded by intensification on some sites and by creating market rental and affordable ownership housing. All three levels of government will need to provide their support through a range of new and existing tools within their control such as capital grants or loans, debt guarantees, or donations or preferential sale of surplus public land. A review process would determine whether buildings might better move to non-profit organizations that currently lease or operate them, and review opportunities to renovate, demolish, replace or sell. Provincial and Federal funding will be vital to this process.

  4. Decentralize Operations/ Strengthen Partnerships. Move to a flatter management model. More decision-making will move to the Operating Unit level, with closer contact between managers, front-line workers and tenants. Tenant Advisory Committees, made up of tenants, City and community resources, and the local City Councilor could be established to support the decentralized model. Vulnerable tenants will have the support they need through partnerships with agencies specializing in seniors’ supports, mental health and community development.

  5. Reform the rent geared to income (RGI) System. Reform of Ontario’s current RGI system is important for current low-income renters, giving them choice and portability in housing location and simplifying the administrative processes. Reform has the potential to streamline the delivery of housing assistance, along with social assistance and child care subsidy. This will provide flexibility to households and is also one component of helping TCHC transition to mixed-income housing.

Together, the changes recommended in this report can put TCHC back on a path to a financially and socially sustainable future. A future as a housing company that provides the best housing for its tenants. One that offers access to services for those who need them. One that is accountable to the City and its taxpayers.

Summary of Recommendations

That the City facilitate TCHC’s transition to a community-based non-profit housing corporation, taking into consideration the two models outlined in this report.

That the City, in consultation with TCHC/NewHome, oversee a portfolio rationalization
process that includes an analysis of the portfolio to determine what is reasonable to renovate, those that should be demolished and replaced, perhaps with higher density or those that should be sold. Also, properties will need to be reviewed to determine who is best to operate the buildings and provide the most effective service to tenants.

That existing TCHC employees be given the opportunity to transfer to any new entities2 created by organizational re-structuring with appropriate consultations to be carried out with union representatives.

The Corporate Board of Directors of TCHC/NewHome, should be reduced to 7-9 citizen members and should be more appropriately compensated for their commitment and adequately supported.

That the City rely on its existing powers under the Housing Services Act to ensure sound public policy and fiscal stewardship of public funds by TCHC or NewHome.

That the City request the Province to make the necessary legislative changes to support income-mixing in public housing and that the City and TCHC renegotiate TCHC’s rent geared to income targets to facilitate a transition to a more mixed portfolio reducing the current 90% Rent Geared to Income household numbers, over time, to 70%, without reducing overall the City’s commitment to RGI level subsidies for low-income tenants.

That the Province consider ways to help reduce TCHC’s energy burden and that TCHC update its energy efficiency strategy to include portfolio-wide incentives or programs for tenants to conserve.

That the City requests the Province to adjust social assistance rent scales so that RGI tenants who receive social assistance are charged and receive the maximum shelter allowance.

That the City conduct a full review of services to the TCHC tenant population (such as employment, recreation programs, security officers), with a view to identifying which services the City, or one of its agencies, should fund or manage, and the best way to integrate these services with the greater community.

That the City continue to look at revenue and/or debt-related financial tools to help fund social housing including the removal of TCHC from the City’s balance sheet.

That the City continue to engage with the Federal and Provincial governments in order to identify funding opportunities for the $2.6 billion capital repair program including the newly promised Federal funding for social infrastructure, and requesting the Province to also provide matching infrastructure funds. The City should also continue to call upon the Federal government to create a National Housing Strategy, with funding to support it.

That TCHC undertake an aggressive building program to support the goals of income-mixing, energy efficiency, managing capital repairs and increasing affordable housing options for low and moderate income people in Toronto. That TCHC explore the possibility of combining affordable home ownership as well as affordable rental in some new or fully renovated buildings. This can be done on its own and/or in collaboration with the non-profit or private sector.

To support this new aggressive building program, we further recommend that all three orders of government provide a range of new or existing tools including (i) capital grants or loans, (ii) debt guarantees, (iii) tax and fee waivers, (iv) streamlined approvals and (v) donations or preferential sale of surplus public land.

That the City and TCHC, along with community non-profits and/or private sector partners, give early attention in an aggressive building program to the provision of more accommodation for seniors, including seniors-only facilities.

That TCHC/NewHome pursue a comprehensive sustainability agenda and continue to take advantage of Provincial and other energy rebate or incentive programs.

That TCHC/NewHome shift its current operational structure to a decentralized model, with more localized decision-making in order to ensure closer contact with frontline workers and tenants, make more effective use of local partnerships and staff at all levels.

That the City, working together with TCHC/NewHome, establish new Tenant Advisory Committees to align with the decentralized organizational structure and to provide a more responsive and accountable forum to address tenant issues. The majority of members will be tenants, joined by City and community resources, as necessary.

That TCHC/NewHome develop management agreements to clarify the authority of local Operating Units to make decisions, to establish measures to track performance and to regularly monitor performance with metrics.

That the City continue to work closely with TCHC/NewHome and Toronto’s five Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) to introduce on-site or community hubs by identifying partner agencies and seeking funding for support services in “high needs” buildings.

That TCHC/NewHome, with support from the City, develop a partnership strategy to clarify the purpose and nature of its relationships with referral and support service agencies, and to ensure support/referral arrangements lead to tenancy success.

That the Provincial government be requested to prioritize legislative changes to reform and simplify the rent geared to income system (RGI) to: a) verify incomes no more than once a year, unless the tenant experiences a major loss of income; 2) base subsidy calculations on income tax returns and 3) permit rent geared to income subsidies now tied to the landlord to be converted into portable housing benefits. In the meantime, the City, as Service Manager, consider assuming the calculation of RGI qualified subsidy levels as part of its one-window initiative for those seeking subsidized housing, childcare subsidies, and Ontario Works.

That TCHC/NewHome continue to pursue the Action Plans recommended in the Task Force Interim Report. This is key to improving living conditions for tenants.

That the City, in collaboration with TCHC/NewHome, enhance afterhours support offered through its Client Care Centre so that staff have support in crisis situations. As well, TCHC/NewHome should provide further training programs for staff working with vulnerable tenants.

That TCHC/NewHome examine the services provided by the Office of the Commissioner of Housing Equity to explore mandate changes that would offer wider and earlier service to any tenant at risk of eviction for rent arrears.

That TCHC/NewHome review and revise its policy of Evictions for Cause with a focus on quick and consistent procedures to deal with illegal and antisocial activity.

That the City continue to pursue the 2015 Federal budget item, on TCHC’s behalf, to allow for mortgage refinancing without penalty on remaining high interest CMHC mortgages.

That TCHC/NewHome review current private sector management contracts adopting clear performance standards to ensure equity in tenant services, adequate small capital repairs and fair wages for staff. Both non-profit and private sector companies should be considered for contracting.

That the City should cap the growth of TCHC/NewHome so that they continue to operate no more than their current level of 58,500 units, subject to review in five years. Ways should be explored for the development expertise and economies of scale advantages within TCHC to be helpful in strengthening the non-profit housing sector in Toronto.

That Council direct the City Manager to oversee the implementation of all recommendations directed to the City as Shareholder and Service Manager and that the new Board of TCHC/NewHome be similarly mandated to oversee the implementation of those actions related to the corporation itself.

That, in five years, the City conduct a review of changes implemented as a result of this report.

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