Despite the dominance of transit issues in Toronto's mayoral election campaign, all three leading candidates have now released their affordable housing strategies.
In an announcement on Thursday, Doug Ford promised to make tackling the backlog of repairs at aging Toronto Community Housing Corporation buildings his "top priority" if he is elected mayor.
Mr. Ford, who campaigned at a public housing complex, also said he would conduct a review of the troubled agency.
"Repairing our TCHC housing units is my top priority. I will work with the council to tackle these issues head on," he told reporters. "I will lead a top-to-bottom review of the TCHC operations to make sure taxpayers' money is being invested wisely. I will put every penny we save straight into repairs."
The average age of the properties managed by the TCHC, which is North America's largest public housing landlord, is 42 years and the agency estimates that it will need to do more than $2.6-billion in capital repairs over the next decade.
Mr. Ford's remarks on Thursday, which were billed as a TCHC policy announcement, were short on specifics. He reiterated the agency's existing plans to spend $128-million on capital projects this year and $175-million next year.
Last week, rival candidate John Tory promised to revamp the TCHC by assembling a task force of councillors, tenants and housing experts to consider a restructuring of the agency and report back next summer.
Mr. Tory also said he would immediately tackle the TCHC's massive repair backlog using $864-million he said the city is holding in hopes that the federal and provincial governments will contribute their share. The TCHC later corrected Mr. Tory's claim, saying it is not holding any money back from its 10-year repair program.
For her part, Olivia Chow, who revealed her housing plan in July, has vowed to create 15,000 affordable rental units over four years by offering private landlords a break on development fees and a fast track through the city's approval process in return for earmarking up to 20 per cent of units in new apartment towers for affordable rents.
Ms. Chow also proposed hiving off the TCHC's seniors buildings into a separate corporation, which she said would be more responsive to residents' needs.
If the seniors pilot project is successful, Ms. Chow left the door open to further dividing the TCHC into smaller units.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ford told the Toronto Sun last week that he would hire former TCHC chief executive officer Gene Jones "back in 10 seconds," saying he was railroaded for political reasons.
Mr. Jones stepped down after the city's ombudsman issued a report in April accusing him of "an abject failure of leadership" and sharply criticizing the TCHC's human resources and hiring practices. The report found a 67 per cent turnover among managers and non-union staff since Mr. Jones's arrival in 2012.
Mr. Ford's brother Mayor Rob Ford has long made advocating for TCHC residents a part of his political strategy. On Thursday, Doug Ford said he has adopted his brother's "passion" for improving the lives of TCHC residents, saying he and his brother visit social housing complexes every day or two.
"I have to admit, Rob has had the passion for 14 years and I came along four years ago, and I feel his passion," he said. "Until you walk through some of these buildings, you talk to the great residents – and they are absolutely great people here – you don't understand until you've actually walked a mile in someone's shoes."
In addition to his campaigning, Doug Ford appeared with his wife, Karla, in two television interviews, one on Wednesday with CITY-TV and the other on Thursday on CP24.
With a report from Elizabeth Church.