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Housing agency plans to trim costs

Toronto Star, September 5, 2002
by Kerry Gillespie


The city-owned social housing corporation is short $30 million and plans to find almost all of it by tightening its belt.

Once the Toronto Community Housing Corp. finds $25 million of its budget deficit internally, it plans to ask the province, rather than local taxpayers, to foot the bill for the remaining $5 million.

The deficit-reduction plan includes cutting jobs, contracting out services and increasing the overall efficiency of Canada's largest landlord, which has an annual budget of $566 million.

But the draft business plan released yesterday is also about improving the organization and the lives of the 160,000 low-income tenants who live in its communities, corporation CEO Derek Ballantyne said.

Over the years, a great deal of money has gone into the city's various social housing corporations but "it does not seem to produce a lot of change," Ballantyne said.

The Toronto Community Housing Corp. was created last November by city council when it brought together the former city-owned Toronto Housing Corp. and the provincially downloaded Metro Toronto Housing Authority. The 2003-05 draft business plan is the first for the new corporation.

Tenants and others will have an opportunity to tell the housing board what they think on Sept. 24. The board will consider the input and the plan will go to city council for final approval in October.

The plan's vision for the future includes vibrant communities, where tenants have a say in how the buildings are run and have access to community and social services, as well as to job and educational opportunities.

Ballantyne said the corporation will know it has succeeded when any Torontonian can walk through a community with social housing buildings in it and say: "I could live here. This is a decent place to live."

"This would make us a very different organization than we've been," Ballantyne said.

The business plan includes seeking partnerships with the private sector to increase the number of social housing units and to intersperse them with moderate and high-end rental and ownership housing to create healthy mixed communities.

The challenges facing the corporation are great costs are rising five times as fast as revenues. Tenants pay rent geared to income, which means they pay 30 per cent of their income in rent and the corporation can't increase rent just to cover rising costs the way private landlords can.

Job cuts will begin with management. There are currently 200 managers and that number will be reduced by 30 per cent, or about 60 jobs, by the end of next year.

Once it trims $25 million itself, it expects the provincial government to kick in the remaining $5 million of the annual budget deficit because it short-changed the city when it downloaded the nearly 60,000 units of social housing to the city, Ballantyne said.

The provincial government has always maintained the city was given enough money to run and repair the buildings, which are, on average, 37 years old.


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