TCHC cancels office renovation plans after backlash
Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Friday, October 25, 2013 2:16PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 25, 2013 6:08PM EDT
Toronto Community Housing Corp. is backtracking on plans to spend up to $2 million to renovate offices at its 931 Yonge St. headquarters.
The proposal included a plan to renovate TCHC CEO Gene Jones’ office. But speaking with CP24 Friday afternoon, Jones called the office renovations an unnecessary distraction.
“It’s the right thing to do. This is not a distraction I need,” Jones told CP24 Friday afternoon. “My focus is on the 2014 budget and the strategic plan for 2014. I don’t need this. I have to serve my residents and I have to make sure that’s my focus. The office was always secondary.”
Just a day earlier Jones told various media outlets that his office ‘looks like a little manager’s office’ and said he was embarrassed to bring people there.
A report tabled at a TCHC board meeting Oct. 24 recommended that the corporation spend as much as $2 million to redesign, renovate and refurnish its headquarters at 931 Yonge St.
Citing an opportunity to create greater synergy within TCHC, the report said the renovated office space would allow various satellite offices to be consolidated and would lead to more efficient workflow and reduced cost.
In addition to revamping Jones’ office, the design proposal called for breakout rooms, a well-equipped board room, a large training room, and furniture that would “provide a healthy and ergonomically sound working environment for staff.”
As part of the office reorganization, the same report recommended TCHC lease 25,000 square feet of space at a centrally located 30-storey office tower at 777 Bay St. and purchase furniture for that space as well.
Responding to the proposed office redesign Friday, Mayor Rob Ford – a frequent and long-time supporter of Jones -- said he hopes the CEO is not “losing track of what he’s here for.”
“I’m very upset. I can’t tolerate that. I put a call in to Eugene but didn’t talk to him,” Ford told reporters Friday. “I was told he wants a bigger office. Come on – don’t we all want bigger offices. But these people down there, they’re the ones I have to take care of and that’s where the money should be going.”
Jones has been at the helm of TCHC for over a year now and has been tasked by Ford with cleaning out the organization after a number of spending scandals.
Ford later said he was satisfied after he learned the office renovation plans had been scrapped.
In a letter to TCHC board chair Bud Purves Friday, Jones formally withdrew the plans from the agenda of TCHC’s December board meeting.
“I have instructed my staff to step back and take another look at our plan, and to consult with the City of Toronto, our residents, and the real estate sector on potential solutions,” Jones says in the letter.
Jones said TCHC staff will ‘double up’ for the time being and do what they need to do to go on without the office renovations. He said the corporation will go back to square one to re-examine how to make its space more workable without spending the money.
In his letter to Purves, Jones said TCHC staff come back to the board next year with a full analysis of options.
“We will refocus our efforts on finding solutions to our space needs that will improve services, increase efficiency and provide value for money,” Jones said in the letter.
TCHC, the largest social housing provider in Canada, is currently facing a lengthy backlog of capital repairs that will cost an estimated $2.6 billion over the next decade.
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