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Toronto's Mayor Rob Ford inspects a resident's apartment during a tour of a Toronto community housing building in the city's east end on Feb. 16, 2012 .

Mayor Rob Ford is backing away from immediate plans to liquidate 675 TCHC homes, but deferring the sell-off is only delaying the inevitable, according to the chair of Toronto Community Housing.

Mr. Ford's executive committee met on Friday to debate a plan from TCHC staff recommending the sale of the scattered single-family social housing. Mr. Ford initially endorsed the scheme. But at the outset of the meeting, he voiced his support for a motion that would support the sale of 56 unoccupied properties, putting off the remainder until September, when a special working group chaired by Councillor Ana Bailao can report back on alternative options.

Many of the more than 100 social housing advocates crammed into the committee room treated the deferral as a victory.

But Bud Purves, chair of the TCHC board, said the homes will have to be sold sooner or later unless another level of government rides to the rescue. The agency is currently facing a $750-million repair backlog and a $2.2-billion debt. Selling the scattered units was expected to generate $220-million.

"I don't know of another alternative," he said of the sell-off. "If they're not sold off, someone else will have to help us with the housing crisis."

Mr. Ford told the Globe and Mail that he also thinks all 675 homes will have to be sold, even if it has to wait until September. "Absolutely," he said on Wednesday. "We need money. We have to fix our existing stock."

Ms. Bailao said the job of her five-member working group will be to prove Mr. Purves and TCHC wrong.

"It might be that they are right," she said. "But first we need to do this work."

During his opening comments at the meeting, Mr. Purves said the board cannot create a sustainable financial plan given the agency's current balance sheet. The debt alone, he said, "impedes our ability to undertake almost any investment strategy."