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Reminders of water damage can be seen on the side of 177 Pendrith St., a Toronto Community Housing building in Toronto's west end, where a number of apartments are in need of repairs, photographed March 10 2011. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Reminders of water damage can be seen on the side of 177 Pendrith St., a Toronto Community Housing building in Toronto's west end, where a number of apartments are in need of repairs, photographed March 10 2011. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Make Ottawa pay for Toronto community housing repairs, councillor says Add to ...

Toronto city councillor Mike Layton has a suggestion for financing badly-needed repairs to the city's stock of affordable housing: make the federal government pay.

Last month, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation voted to sell 706 units, starting with 70 that are unoccupied. The sale, which must still be approved by city council and the province, is expected to net $336-million that would be put towards the estimated $650-million worth of upkeep the agency says it performs.

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“[That]strategy is like selling your house to pay off your mortgage,” the left-wing councillor said Friday. “Eventually, this policy is going to catch up with us because we'll have no more homes to sell.”

At a press conference, three NDP members of parliament joined him to call for a strategy that would see the highest level of government get back into the business of building and maintaining homes for those who can't afford market rents.

“We know that in our city, housing is too expensive for too many people,” said Toronto-Davenport MP Andrew Cash. Caucus-mates Rathika Sitsabaiesan and Dan Harris told anecdotes about constituents, including a family with a disabled son, who were set to lose their homes under the TCHC's plan.

But the federal government is not likely to become a Toronto landlord any time soon: like the city, it is trying to slay a hefty budget deficit.

Mr. Cash suggested the federal government could find the extra cash by rolling back corporate tax cuts and Mr. Layton said a similar move to hold the line on taxes at the municipal level was also part of the problem.

“They seem to be more concerned with cutting taxes than making sure the people who pay them get the services they actually need,” he said.

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