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Toronto Mayor reassessing plan to sell off social housing units

The semi-detached house at 3 Hubbard Boulevard, sits right off the shore of Lake Ontario and was valued at $970,000, in Toronto's The Beach neighbourhood on June 23, 2011. This is one of Toronto Community Housing Corporation's social houses up for sale by the city.

Michelle Siu For The Globe and Mail/michelle siu The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is re-evaluating a plan to liquidate 740 social housing units, a significant rethink that will see him working closely with councillors who have largely abandoned his agenda of late.

Mr. Ford's executive committee was scheduled to debate the wholesale selloff on Monday, but the city gave word late Friday it will now be punted to next Friday due to the volume of deputants – more than 100 – who signed up to speak.

But behind the scenes, Mr. Ford has been consulting Councillor Ana Bailao, chair of the Affordable Housing Committee. The two may broker a compromise that would address Toronto Community Housing's mammoth $750-million repair backlog without shrinking the agency's portfolio so drastically.

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"I just had a very good chat with the mayor," said Ms. Bailao, who did not provide details of the revised plan. "We agreed there's a huge problem. And that we need a better strategy. He's extremely passionate about these issues and understands we need to do more."

The new plan is in its early stages. Sources say it would call for the sale of just 56 units, all of which are vacant. It would also recommend a special task force to formulate new financing schemes to raise money for a more permanent fix. The repair backlog is projected to reach $1-billion within two years.

Mr. Ford, who pays regular visits to TCHC buildings, now sees the $222-million yield from the selloff as insufficient considering the grief it will cause. Some of his opponents on council believe he has simply realized the selloff would not pass an emboldened council that has shown increasing resistance to the mayor's agenda.

"There's a feeling that selling off everything is not the best option," Ms. Bailao said. "I think we're now headed in the right direction."

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National reporter

Patrick previously worked in the Globe's Winnipeg bureau, covering the Prairies and Nunavut, and at Toronto City Hall. He is a National Magazine Award recipient and author of the book Mountie In Mukluks. More

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