On March 14, days after the seven hour meeting that saw him installed as the lone director of the TCHC board, Case Ootes told the Toronto Star’s Royson James that “it wouldn’t be appropriate” for him to sell off city-owned housing. “That’s not on the agenda for me,” he said. “I do not believe that is something I’d do.”
Today, less than a month after making those comments, Ootes held a board meeting where he moved and approved a motion that would see the city sell 22 single-family homes owned by TCHC:
Acting as a one-man board, interim managing director Case Ootes has approved the sale of 22 single-family homes owned by the Toronto Community Housing Corp.
The issue will now go to city council. From there, approvals will be needed from the province before the properties can be put on the market.
“Past boards, for various reasons, have avoided the difficult decisions that need to be made. We can’t continue on the road where the capital repairs continue to escalate; we can’t keep up, we’re way behind. Something has to give.”
In the same article (by The Star’s Robyn Doolittle), Ootes claims that he’s “simply following through with a process initiated by the previous board.” But that would appear to be disingenuous.
Last year, Kris Scehuer of the My TownCrier outlet reported that the TCHC was selling several properties to a non-profit Aboriginal housing provider at below market value. Scheuer also reported that the TCHC board was looking at doing the same thing with other properties, including beachfront houses on Hubbard Boulevard.
The move was vocally opposed by then-councillor Case Ootes:
But there were voices of dissent on the plan, including Toronto-Danforth Councillor Case Ootes, who voted against the decision to sell to Wigwamen.
“I’m not convinced that handing off assets that belong to the city to an agency at less than market value makes sense,” he said. “The agency will provide social housing, but we’ve lost control of the asset.”
Councillor Ootes would like the city to sell those homes for market value, and use the revenue for rent subsidies.
“I don’t think people in social housing need to live in $800,000 houses or $500,000 houses,” he said. Instead, “Look at the option for a rent subsidy.”
The previous board was in favour of selling assets at below-market value to not-for-profit organizations that could offer housing services. This strategy allowed the city to continue to meet its provincially mandated quota for public housing while shifting ongoing maintenance costs to a third-party organization.
Ootes opposed this, as was his right as a city councillor.
That was then. No longer a member of council, Ootes has, in effect, used what we were told was a temporary ‘caretaker’ position on the TCHC board to attempt to effect a policy he was pushing in his previous role as a city politician.
Whatever your opinion on the merits of selling these properties, this comes off as dishonest.