Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he is "livid" with the Toronto Community Housing Corporation for considering spending up to $2 million on renovating and expanding their headquarters.
"There's no reason for this," the Mayor told Newstalk1010 Friday morning, calling out TCHC president and CEO Gene Jones for lamenting the size of his office at headquarters.
"I hope he's not losing track of what he's there for. If a big office and spending $2 million is his priority, then I'm going to have to sit down and have a chat with him."
The mayor said he visited a TCHC property Thursday and believes the priority needs to be to addressing the nearly $1-billion in projected backlog repairs at TCHC.
On Thursday, Mr. Jones said the organization's Rosedale headquarters are "inadequate" and he plans to persuade the board of directors to invest as much as $2-million renovating and expanding the space.
"This is a professional organization. This is not a mom-and-pop store," Mr. Jones said of the need to upgrade the facilities at the public-housing authority.
The TCHC's board of directors voted Thursday to postpone a decision on the proposal to renovate the headquarters, purchased in 2004, and expand their office space by leasing another downtown location.
The report comes after years of controversy at TCHC. The organization currently has a projected $1-billion in backlog repairs for their properties – Mr. Jones said the most current estimates are $812-million and growing – while five managers were recently fired after they were alleged to have falsified documents.
According to the new proposal, the headquarters at 931 Yonge St. would be renovated to include more rooms, new furniture and replaced fixtures – from toilets to carpeting – plus fresh paint. TCHC staff estimated the cost could be cut down to $1.6-million by using refurbished furniture and scaling back on some proposed renovations. The board will bring the issue back to the table at its Dec. 11 meeting.
At Thursday's meeting, members expressed concern over investing money into the current facility when the board had previously decided it would sell the Rosedale building and move to a location closer to residents.
"I don't think it's something we can justify to either the taxpayers of the city of Toronto or our tenant base," said board member and city councillor Maria Augimeri.
"I was assured that we were going to be selling the building. I'm hoping that we still will."
Mr. Jones vowed to eventually sell the property, estimating the Rosedale building could fetch $11.3-million. But he said TCHC is not prepared to sell yet and defended the proposal to upgrade, saying he hoped with more information the board would approve it in December.
"This building was moved into in 2004. There have not been any recent improvements," Mr. Jones said. "Come look at my office. Look at the CEO's office. It looks like a little manager's office. It's so small, I'm embarrassed to bring anyone up there."
The proposal tabled Thursday also recommends leasing 24,400 square feet of office space plus 1,100 square feet of ground floor space at 777 Bay St., which Mr. Jones estimates would cost between $600,000 and $800,000 per year. The 10-year lease would include an option to opt out after five years.
The report highlights a lack of space for staff as the primary cause for needing to renovate and expand. The plan would include swapping out the building's large, built-in desk units for more compact furniture to make better use of space and building and upgrading meeting rooms.
"There is an immediate need for additional space to adequately accommodate staff and further centralize operations," the proposal for the renovation states.
Wally Simpson, a TCHC tenant, called the proposal "inconsiderate," when there are so many tenants waiting for repairs.
"How many homes are they going to sacrifice with that $2-million?" Mr. Simpson said.
"The money should be spent toward clearing the backlog of repairs, not on the ivory tower."
At the meeting Thursday, the board approved a 10-year capital budget plan that would require $2.6-billion to cover all the repair backlogs and bring buildings up to standard. The plan would require a $864-million contribution from the City of Toronto, as well as contributions from the federal and provincial governments.