As Rob Ford cleans house at the TCHC, it is worth reflecting on what Toronto Community Housing does—and doesn’t do—for its residents in Weston.
There are two public housing projects in town, one at 1901 Weston Rd, just north of Lawrence, and one at 5 Bellevue, just south of it. Both are high-rise apartments, and both, according to a recent report by the United Way, are likely fraught with problems. Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty says that the non-profit housing in Toronto is quite bad, and worse in many ways than for-profit housing.
It says that income inequality has grown in Toronto, and that the poor have become much poorer over the past 20 years. The City of York, which includes Weston, is the poorest borough in Toronto. In York, the average renting household makes only $28,000 a year, down from $34,500 25 years ago.
Children suffer, too: since “2005, more than one out of every four City of Toronto families with children under the age of eighteen was low-income, up from one-in-six in 1990”.
While the poor live in high-rise housing, the poorest of the poor live in non-profit high-rises. Two-thirds of non-profit tenants make less than $20,000 a year, and 43% are on social assistance. A quarter have a disability, and one in ten has a serious mental health problem.
Non-profit renters do pay very little for their homes. On average, they pay only only $373 a month for rent. For that, though, they get a lot of problems:
- 21% say that they had been attacked in the past year on the grounds of the building
- 71% say they have roaches or mice.
- 40% say that drugs or drug dealing are a problem
In addition to the social and sanitation problems, the physical condition of the buildings is worse than in the private sector. The elevators break down more often, and the common areas are in worse repair.
Your humble correspondent may be the only person in Toronto who does not begrudge the employees of TCHC their Christmas party or spa trips. That stuff is small potatoes in a budget of $300 million. Trips and chocolates make for good headlines, but he worries much more about the millions misspent on competition-free contracts. Those contracts could have put as much as $60 in the pockets of each of the tenants in Toronto Community Housing—money they could certainly spend better than the members of the board.