The sale of 65 Toronto Community Housing Corp. properties valued at $24-million will go ahead without delay after the province reversed a decision to postpone the selloff until the fall.
Kathleen Wynne, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, said Wednesday she will grant the necessary approvals as soon as possible, even though she still believes it makes better sense to wait until a special working group reports on the fate of another 619 single-family homes.
"I don't want anyone to be left with the idea that I was trying to thwart city council," Ms. Wynne said in an interview. "I was making a suggestion … to the Mayor that I prefer to see this as one conversation. That has been not been received well so we need to move to the next stage."
Mayor Rob Ford went over Ms. Wynne's head to Premier Dalton McGuinty with a strongly worded June 7 letter demanding the province approve the sales immediately.
He then invited Mr. McGuinty to join him on a tour of the dilapidated TCHC townhomes and apartment blocks that could be repaired with proceeds from the properties, all but one of which are vacant.
"I'd like to thank the Premier for his quick action on this issue," the Mayor said in a statement Wednesday. "I look forward to receiving the Minister's letter so we can move forward to make critical repairs that will improve the lives of hundreds of families in TCHC buildings."
Asked several times whether the Premier had directed her to reverse course, Ms. Wynne replied: "That's not what this is about." However, she said that she and Mr. McGuinty had discussed the issue.
The Mayor and city council voted in favour of selling 22 homes in June, 2011, and 56 in March of this year. Of those, 65 required ministerial consent to sell. Ten have been waiting nearly a year for the Minister's signoff.
Despite their poor condition, some of the empty homes could rake in much more than their assessed value because they're in sought-after neighbourhoods, including the Beach, Playter Estates and High Park.
Bud Purves, chairman of the TCHC board, said he hopes to see for-sale signs on some of the properties within a month, assuming there are no further roadblocks thrown up by City Hall or Queen's Park.
The extra money will make a big difference, he added. TCHC's annual capital-repair budget is $50-million, well short of the $100-million in needs that pile up at 55,200 units every year. The total repair backlog is already $750-million.
"We're going to start working on this immediately," Mr. Purves said. "This is good news for our tenants."
Ana Bailao, the councillor leading the special working group, echoed that. "It's $24-million that we're going to be able to invest in the remaining properties, thousands of properties that need repairs," she said. "It will be a huge help in getting us started."
Her committee, which includes Mr. Purves, is scheduled to report to city council in October on whether to sell another 619 TCHC homes and how best to improve the shabby state of TCHC's housing stock.