Housing repairs are most badly needed in these two GTA communities
|Toronto Star 25 Oct 2017 at 16:16|
Georgina Island is the Greater Toronto Area’s only Indigenous reserve, mostly populated by people in single-family homes and somewhat remote, in that it is only accessible by boat.
What the two places do share is the distinction of being identified as the top two communities in the GTA, in terms of the percentage of housing stock that has been identified as being in serious need of repairs, according to 2016 census data released Wednesday.
Georgina Island has just 115 reported households, but of that total 30 homes or 26.1 per cent of all housing on the island are considered to be in need of serious repairs. The average household size was recorded at 2 people and almost a third of reported properties were single-person dwellings.
Chief Donna Big Canoe said housing needs on the island are complicated by a combination of funding, infrastructure and costs.
“A lot of the housing that was built years ago wasn’t up to code, said Big Canoe, who said the top issues are mould and structural problems, including foundations. “We are trying to address it, but there is such a backlog that it takes time.”
They are also waiting to start work on upgrading their water treatment plant — the island is under a boil-water advisory — and that needs to be done before new homes can be built, she said.
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“We are surrounded by water, so we really need to make sure when we do housing it has to be done right,” said Big Canoe.
A boat ride and about an hour drive southwest is Flemingdon Park, a diverse and densely packed community, primarily in the Eglinton Ave. E. and Don Mills Rd. area.
Within that neighbourhood, a piece of land near St. Dennis Dr. and the Don Valley Pkwy. has been identified as second on the list of areas where housing is in most need of serious repairs.
The area contains a mix of housing, including private rental towers, lowrise buildings and public housing, including Toronto Community Housing townhomes.
Of 1,345 reported households, 345 or 25.7 per cent are identified as being in need of serious repair. The average household was recorded at three people and almost half of the total properties were deemed “unsuitable” or overcrowded, in census terms.
Rev. Beverley Williams, executive director of Flemingdon Park Ministry said the bulk of residents live in low-income and rental housing, filled largely with refugees, immigrants and the working poor.
“One of the huge issues here is people are underhoused,” said Williams, explaining families of four, five, or six often occupy one-bedroom apartments.
Despite the density, isolation is a common problem because of language barriers and poverty, she said.
“It is our number one to get people out of their housing into the community,” said Williams.
Rental housing and repair standards resulted in what was dubbed a “rent strike,” in buildings in Toronto’s Parkdale area. That action resulted in a settlement between tenants and property manager MetCap Living Management Inc.
MetCap is about two weeks away from launching a program for lower-income tenants, said president Brent Merrill. Tenants can apply if they have reason to believe a raise in rent could jeopardize their housing and can provide financial documentation to support it, he said.
MetCap has also tasked a staff member to log and track all repairs in MetCap buildings in Parkdale, said Merrill.
All Toronto tenants can expect safer and cleaner rental housing, through a new bylaw requiring that landlords keep better track of and stay on top of repairs.
Toronto landlords must register with the city by October 31.
The rules apply to about 3,500 rental buildings, or all buildings with three or more storeys and 10 or more units.
On Monday, 2,149 buildings were registered, according to city staff.
Also counted among the top five areas with housing in need of serious repairs were two areas in Scarborough and a southern portion of the Thorncliffe Park area.
In Scarborough, in the Lawrence Ave. E. and Scarborough Golf Club Rd. area, of 1,715 identified households 22.7 per cent were reported as being in need of serious repairs. In the Brimley Rd. and Eglinton Ave. E. area, of 1,015 identified households 20.2 per cent needed repairs.
In Thorncliffe Park, south of Thorncliffe Park. Rd. and north of the Don River, of 1,505 households 21.9 per cent were identified as being in need of serious repairs.