Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ottawa Housing selling off oldest properties to finance new ones

OTTAWA — The city’s social housing stock still needs significant investment to upgrade its aging properties, despite efforts to reduce the massive maintenance backlog.
Deferred maintenance work required for the 14,800 units operated by Ottawa Community Housing Corp. has been reduced in the past five years, dropping from $211 million in 2008 to $146 million this year, according to the latest building condition assessment. Any further reductions will be a challenge, say OCHC staff.
The document going to the board of directors meeting on Thursday outlines the projected cost of maintenance if no investment is made in the coming years. OCHC operates one of the oldest housing stocks in the province with the average age reaching 40 years. Putting a dent in the massive backlog has been difficult, but by selling older properties and leveraging that money to build new units has helped significantly, according to OCHC.
“By selling an older buildings, we not only eliminate the deferred maintenance cost, we can put that money from the sale into our community redevelopment fund,” said Jo-Anne Poirier, the CEO for the city’s community housing corporation that owns and operates $2.7 billion in property.
The corporation just sold its first home with another six properties either on the market already or set to go up soon. The single-family home on Prospect Avenue went for $395,000 and that money, in addition to funding grants and a mortgage, could turn into four new units, Poirier said.
When all six properties are sold, OCHC expects to bring in $2 million, which they can parlay into about $8 million and pay for an estimated 32 new units, while eliminating even more deferred maintenance.
The report going to the board of directors breaks down maintenance costs by building types, showing that highrise apartments require the least per-unit investment to upgrade, coming in at an estimated $3,955 per unit in 2013.
Without any action, though, those costs will rise. Per-unit repairs for highrise apartments for instance is expected to escalate to $17,220 by 2017.
Low-rise apartments that require $4,420 per unit this year will jump to $14,839 in four years. For townhouses, which need $20,202 this year, the cost doubles to $42,857 in 2017.
“If you don’t have a chance to get the work done, than the problem only grows,” Poirier said. “Things continue to deteriorate and that’s why we try to be as strategic as we can with the money we have.”
There are also larger redevelopment strategies being considered. The corporation is nearly ready to turn to the development community for a partner in the planned transformation of Rochester Heights, a 104-unit social housing community at Gladstone Avenue and Booth Street.
Built in the 1960s, it has many ongoing problems, including inconsistent heating and moisture issues. OCHC is looking to possibly sell a portion of Rochester Heights, using money from the sale to pay for a total redevelopment of the rest of the property that spans along several city blocks. Such a plan would let the corporation build new units and increase the number to about 300.
Upgrades like this one or any other could also reduce the number of maintenance work orders, which have increased for the past five years. Work orders went from 67,258 in 2009 to 91,274 in 2012.
This is largely attributed to the aging housing stock, but new annual inspections have contributed to this as well, said Poirier. In those inspections, staff are able to identify issues that many tenants don’t notice.

For the complete article from the Ottawa Citizen, Derek Spaulding, please click here

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