January 23, 2012
Mayor Rob Ford, still stinging from a budget defeat last week, is reaching out to council centrists on the thorny issue of selling Toronto Community Housing Corp. homes.
Ford’s executive committee had been expected to vote Tuesday to sell the 675 single-family homes to raise more than $220 million to repair TCHC’s crumbling apartment blocks.
But council has final say and concerns about reducing the number of TCHC units when there is a record waiting list, along with the fate of low-income families now in the homes, virtually guaranteed another defeat for Ford, who last week saw his stern order not to touch the 2011 surplus ignored.
On Monday night, he released a statement saying he is delaying the TCHC vote for one month so the social housing provider can report back on: how the proceeds will be used for repairs; how the rent-geared to income units will be replaced; and how their occupants will be relocated.
“I meet with people in Toronto Community Housing units every week. Many of the units are absolutely disgusting. The entire system is in desperate need of repairs,” Ford said in the statement.
“It’s unacceptable to me that we would leave people to live this way. We have to find a way to make the most critical repairs as soon as possible.”
Councillor Josh Matlow, one of the leaders of council’s “mighty middle” who helped overturn almost $20 million in Ford’s budget cuts last week, heralded a new tone of compromise from the mayor’s office.
Ford’s staff, who normally give him a wide berth, knocked on his door and listened to his concerns about a “TCHC fire sale” and the fate of the tenants, said Matlow, who broadly supports the sale of some of the homes.
“The mayor and his office have been reaching out to councillors, listening to our concerns, collecting our questions and taking time to reach the best decision for our TCHC homes and the families that live in them,” Matlow said.
“I can only hope,” the spirit of compromise continues, he added. “We’re right at the beginning of the new phase of our relationship. I think the mayor’s office is going to learn to like it.”
There was also major movement Monday on transit expansion, with TTC chair Karen Stintz proposing changes to Ford’s subway-centric plan.
But it was unclear how involved the mayor’s office is in discussions between her and other councillors on the alternate plan for rapid transit on Eglinton, Sheppard and Finch Aves. Those involved expect a vote on some new plan as early as next month.
The other thorny issue on Tuesday’s executive agenda, the proposed sale of a 10 per cent stake in Toronto Hydro, is also expected to be deferred, a source said, noting the utility is in turmoil after its regulator denied its three-year rate hike request.
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