After a day and a half of debate, city council has voted to sell off 22 single-family homes belonging to Toronto Community Housing Corp., a $16-million sale some councillors contend will mark the beginning of the end of government-owned social housing in the city.
The 22 homes, most worth upwards of $500,000 a piece, have been a bugaboo within the TCHC portfolio for months, with social housing proponents saying that placing them on the market is the precursor to a much larger sell-off.
"This is just the beginning," said Councillor Janet Davis. "How many will come back next time? 50? 100? 200? There's no disguising the agenda here."
The mayor's allies have done little to tamp down those fears. Last week Case Ootes, the managing director of TCHC, recommended the sale of 900 more units to help pay off the agency's $650-million repair backlog.
And after Wednesday's 33-10 vote in favour of selling units, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti suggested selling off more units and moving towards a mixture of city-owned housing and direct subsidies for tenants to find private units. Shifting to a blended system could lead to the sale of thousands more units.
"We have to revisit our policies on all of it," he said. "The city is stuck with an old stock of housing that we just cannot fix up. We've got to make some very difficult decisions."
Mr. Mammoliti's proposal incensed other councillors.
"They've put every single home in the TCHC portfolio on the auction block today," said Councillor Adam Vaughan of Mayor Rob Ford and his allies on council. "And if you think that's the way to house poor people and people with needs and build strong communities in this city, you're out of your minds."
Under current legislation, the province still needs to consent to the deal. Only 18 of the homes will hit the market immediately due to life tenancy agreements in four units.