Residents of Toronto Community Housing to shape its future

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Ingrid Palmer hopes to leverage the more than two decades she's spent living in Toronto Community Housing to the city's advantage.  

She's one of 13 residents chosen to be part of the Resident Advisory Panel, created to advise city staff as they craft the future of Toronto's social housing strategy.

That strategy will be largely based on the 29 recommendations that emerged in January from the mayor's task force on community housing, which called for the decentralization of Toronto Community Housing Corp.

A new housing corporation

In doing so, TCHC would no longer be affected by the fact that the city cannot run a deficit — something that significantly limits the amount of funding the city can contribute to its aging housing stock.

"We propose that this new housing corporation should be off the city's books," said Art Eggleton, the senator chairing the community housing task force.

Among the task force's recommendations was to enlist residents like Palmer, who could explain which changes those living in TCH properties most need.

Palmer said the most critical issue will be to speed up and improve the quality of repairs in TCH properties. Right now, if something needs fixing, someone will treat the symptom rather than repair the cause, she said.

When the pipe below her sink rusted out, a repairman taped it instead of replacing it, she said. There was already water damage beneath the sink, she said.

"A while later, you'd be calling for the exact same thing again and you'd be treated like you were either a liar or it was your fault," she said. "Either they thought you were a liar or you didn't care about your house and you were treating it like it was garbage. That's not the case — it felt more like they're the ones treating it like garbage."

More than 200 tenants applied to panel: city

Palmer, however, said that she's pleased to see the city has followed through with the recommendation from the housing roundtable to include the voices of residents.

Coun. Ana Bailao said that it's obvious how much residents wanted to meet with the city: more than 200 people applied for the 13 positions on the panel, she said.  

"There are 110,000 people living there and it's important that we have closer contact with them," she said. "If you're talking about change and how to better service the tenants, you need their voice at the table."