Last month, The Star reported that “Ward 5 (York South-Weston) was the ward with the highest number of complaints” to 311 for apartments.
Of course, that number means nothing at all—wards with more buildings will have more complaints. But it did get me thinking.
The city inspects every large apartment building for the quality of common areas, amenities, elevators, garbage handling, lighting, heating, parking, security, structural features, and cleanliness. They do warn the building owners in advance, but they publish the ‘RentSafeTO‘ information online as part of their open data initiative
How does Ward 5 fare? In a word, quite well. Our apartments are on par with the rest of the city. We got a 71.7% (50.2 out of 70), compared to 72% (50.4 out of 70) citywide.
So The Star had nothing to complain about. Weston rentals are just fine.
City-wide, Toronto Community Housing buildings also do quite well, which I found surprising, considering the chatter and the recent news about 5 Bellevue (more on that in a minute).
TCHC buildings do perform a little worse than average, but the difference is small. They received 69.6%—again, compared to 72% for all buildings.
One standout, though, is 5 Bellevue, in Weston. Bellevue received a score of 40 out of 70, or 57.1%.¹
This is a quite bad score: according to my calculations, 5 Bellevue is in the bottom 2.5% of all buildings in Toronto. This is not a recent result that came about because of the terrible hot water problems, either. The inspection was in March. Something has been wrong at 5 Bellevue for a while.
The worst sub-scores were for the condition of interior walls and garbage chute rooms (2 out 5). No aspect of the building did very well, though, and the typical result was only 3 out of 5.
I’m not an urban planner or an architect, but this situation makes me worry. To start with, nobody in Canada should be living without hot water. It’s simply unacceptable.
But I also worry about a death spiral. People living in bad conditions may, quite naturally, feel they don’t want to invest time, money, or work into making the community builder. That effort could be better spent moving on. As a result, the conditions worsen, the community deteriorates, and people invest even less.
There’s no reason why Westonians should live in some of the worst housing in the city. There’s certainly no reason why the city should be letting them down.
I’m sure the fix is complicated, long-term, and expensive. All the more reason to start fixing it now.
¹ My scores are a little different from the city’s, because I cleaned up the data and excluded results (such as balcony railings) where many buildings had no score, presumably because they lacked the feature.
Please feel free to check my work.