(Originally published to Fresh Print Magazine on July 6, 2015)
After attending the consultation on June 24th, 2015 that was designated an exclusive event for elected TCHC (Toronto Community Housing Corporation) tenant reps there seems to be a number of outstanding issues according to the summary of what has come out of the wide spread community consultations. Beginning with what the Mayor’s Task Force claims residents have stated TCHC is ‘Doing Well” in managing a portfolio of over 2,200 properties (that includes high rises, low rises, town houses, and scattered homes).
First on the slideshow list was “providing affordable housing”. One thing you may notice is that it doesn’t say that TCHC is providing “safe” and affordable housing. Maybe the fear and apathy among TCHC residents regarding criminal activity is the true cost of living in subsidized housing. In Toronto, the average rent (according to a survey done by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation in 2014) for a one bedroom is $899.00. For a similarly sized subsidized unit in Toronto an individual can expect to pay as little as $140. So what’s the average market rent cost compared to ignoring a little drug dealing or prostitution next door? … Who’s the whore?
By now you are probably asking yourself about TCHC’s security personnel. Well they would be doing triage in a community with a much bigger problem than yours without the necessary training, resources, or powers.
The second problem with the statement that TCHC was doing well at “providing affordable housing” was the waiting list. They would want you to believe that they are within acceptable limits of housing all the people that are on their subsidized waiting list within a reasonable amount of time. The most recent stats indicate there are over 90 thousand individuals and families who can expect to wait a minimum of five years. Forgive me but that doesn’t seem like they are even remotely capable of meeting the demand for affordable housing in Toronto.
The next item listed under the “Doing Well” category was the “call center”. Based on personal experience satisfaction with call center operations is a concept that is in constant flux. Besides, how can you claim that a call center is meeting it’s customer satisfaction quota if clearly two thirds, or more, of callers complaints are being ignored?
That two thirds guesstimate is based on the admission at a recent Operational Assessment Meeting open to residents that stated many calls to security are ignored unless there are three calls regarding the same incident. When you also take into consideration that the call center is working with outdated technology that two-thirds estimate begins to look a lot more like an unattainable goal.
Next to appear on the slideshow list under “Doing Well” was (try not to laugh) “good strategic planning”. The very nature of good strategic planning would preclude the need for a Mayor’s Task Force on TCHC would it not? Just sayin’.
Let’s not forget the inclusion of “some hard-working committed staff”. Are we seriously going to pat them on the back for doing their jobs? Admittedly, there are those staff members that go above and beyond every single day. Those individuals deserve our praise.
There are others that need to develop the mindset of ” but for the grace of God go I”. Coming from someone that’s not a religious person, by any means, that’s a significant statement. As a volunteer tenant leader trying to coordinate funding and development projects for my area I don’t want to hear from staff members how they are looking forward to their retirement or how they are dissatisfied with their job. Especially when it’s the same staff member making both statements. May I suggest early retirement? I’m sure there is someone out there who would appreciate your job with its introductory salary of around forty dollars an hour.
Approaching the end of the slideshow list under “Doing Well” was the State of Good Repair and the Closing the Gap initiatives. Beginning with the State of Good Repair campaign where TCHC created a mass sign up for residents to report any repairs that needed to be completed within their units. There was a steady stream of horror stories of projects being started then taking months to complete. One day a contractor would come to their unit to scrape the walls for plastering and painting. Then, on some occasions, months later, the resident would have to call TCHC’s maintenance line in order to get the painting and plastering completed. Never mind the nightmarish stories of incomplete kitchen and bathroom renovations.
Now the Closing the (Housing) Gap campaign isn’t “Doing Well” either. Basically, this involves TCHC hoping that the provincial and federal governments pony up 864 million each to cover the cost of capital repairs on housing stock that is, on average, forty two years old. “Doing Well” for any “Corporation” does not entail a subsidy of two thirds just to get its original stock into acceptable condition in order for it to become a marketable asset.
The final item on the Mayor’s Task Force on TCHC was “having tenant representatives [including] tenant reps on the TCHC Board of Directors”. It is a firmly held belief that if the TCHC was doing well with respect to tenant representation particularly at the Board level we would have equal representation. Meaning tenants would hold half of the TCHC Board of Directors seats as well as a co-chair position. It was reported at the Mayor’s Task Force on TCHC for Tenant Representatives that the two tenant reps currently seated on the twelve member board get railroaded during the decision making/voting process.
During the review on what TCHC appears to be doing well an audience member mentioned TCHC’s efforts at accommodating people with accessibility issues. Again that is another item that is open to interpretation. There are buildings within the TCHC portfolio that are not wheelchair accessible. Some are completely inaccessible. Whereas others are only accessible through the garbage room at the back of the building.
The Mayor’s Task Force on TCHC is trying to sell you (or rent you) a heavily subsidized version of propaganda about what TCHC is “Doing Well”. Doing well really should mean that those individual instances of greatness are common occurrences. It should also mean that there is an increase in the number of satisfied staff or tenants.
Mind you any significant change in work or living conditions within the TCHC community would only take place if the issues raised in the slide referring to “What Is TCHC Not Doing Well?” are adequately addressed. That I will leave for another day.