News Toronto

TCHC units in Jane-Finch closer to being closed for safety fears

Shawn Jeffords, Political Bureau Chief

By Shawn Jeffords, Political Bureau Chief

Mayor John Tory stressed that the city had originally intended to repair 134 community housing units on Firgrove Cres., but once the work began it became apparent it wouldn’t be good enough. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/PHOTO)

Mayor John Tory stressed that the city had originally intended to repair 134 community housing units on Firgrove Cres., but once the work began it became apparent it wouldn’t be good enough. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/PHOTO)

Toronto - 

Mayor John Tory’s executive committee voted Wednesday to close 134 community housing units in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood, saying they had little choice but to demolish them for safety reasons.

Tory stressed that the city had originally intended to repair the units on Firgrove Cres., but once the work began it became apparent it wouldn’t be good enough. The city will have to tear down the units and build new. But that will cause significant disruption and displacement for current residents, he acknowledged.

“We discovered upon actually getting there and starting to do the work ... that they really couldn’t be repaired and shouldn’t be repaired,” the mayor said. “They were never probably built properly to begin with.”

“We tried to do the right thing and I think we are still doing the right thing by actually demolishing these units and starting over with them,” he added.

The committee approved the TCHC plan but it must still be passed at next week’s city council meeting before moving ahead.

The committee heard from residents and housing advocates Wednesday who slammed the city and the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, which runs the complex, for the poor execution of the relocation. Resident Edna Rose, who has lived in the complex for 30 years, said the process will force her to leave a community she calls home.

“I don’t understand why you are all playing politics with my living,” she said. “It is just getting me sick. Since the relocation started, I can’t tell who I am anymore.”

TCHC CEO Greg Spearn warned that the building needs to be torn down because of safety concerns. The only responsible thing to do as a landlord is get residents into new homes as soon as possible, he said.

The process will be difficult and disruptive to residents, he acknowledged.

Spearn defended TCHC’s relocation process, which some advocates complained involves a “bingo-style” number lottery to establish a queue for a new home. Spearn said that lottery just sets an order in which TCHC staff willl meet with residents, but they will still seek out the individual needs of residents.

The process is designed to ensure nobody feels that another resident is cutting the line for a choice unit, he said.

“We’re going to be right out in the open about this and we’re going to be random about it,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to be abandoning the idea of meeting one family at a time.”

Former Toronto mayor John Sewell slammed city council for letting Firgrove Cres. get to the point where it had to be torn down. And it’s just the first of more to come because of council’s inaction, he said.

“I think the city council has now established itself as the worst landlord in Toronto,” he said. “That’s not a good reputation to have. It’s got to change.”

sjeffords@postmedia.com