Right now, and over the course of the next year, Torontonians have the rare opportunity to buy homes directly from the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, the city-owned social-housing provider. Over the past few years, city council has approved sales of 158 of TCHC’s stand-alone properties, the idea being that the proceeds can be used to help pay down the corporation’s estimated $862 million repair backlog.
It may sound somewhat Dickensian—disadvantaged people being turned out onto the streets—but that’s not quite right. TCHC is retaining more than 550 stand-alone properties. Many of the ones being sold weren’t subsidized—they were rented at market rate. Of the 102 homes scheduled to be listed this year, 39 are occupied. The plan is for the people living in them to be relocated in accordance with company policy. TCHC has promised to take “all special needs” into consideration, though it hasn’t yet explained precisely what that means. The corporation’s many mid-rise and high-rise properties aren’t affected.
The sell-off has already kicked up its share of controversy—but just as the sales aren’t totally apocalyptic for social-housing tenants, they’re not exactly a bargain-bin buying opportunity for middle-class gentrifiers. Despite the fact that many of the homes being sold require at least some renovations, they’ve been subject to the same brutal economics that affect all Toronto real estate. Low-rise homes are scarce, and buyers are willing to pay immense sums for them even if they’re not ideal. Bidding on the properties requires the usual amount of speed and skill: most are being listed for two weeks apiece, and TCHC is taking sealed offers. The sales are being staggered to avoid flooding the market, and so a number of properties in prime locations are still waiting to be assigned to brokers.
At the moment, the majority of the buying opportunities are in and around up-and-coming Riverdale, where the former TCHC homes are mostly selling around or above the average sale price for a semi-detached home in the area: $654,000 as of March, according to Toronto Real Estate Board data. (Detached homes average $846,187.)
Click through the gallery for a look at some of the TCHC properties that have recently sold in that area, and what they sold for.