07/10/2012 10:59 EDT | Updated 09/09/2012 05:12 EDT

TCH heritage homes in Cabbagetown crumbling

Residents of the historic Cabbagetown neighbourhood say Toronto Community Housing is neglecting its properties there and bringing down the value of the area.

Architect Scott Weir says TCH owns most of the 130-year-old homes in the area, but even when it does make repairs it isn't following preservation rules.

"Those decisions on one house might be a very small issue, [but] when you multiply it across 50 buildings in this neighbourhood it becomes a big impact," he said.

Weir brought his concerns on Tuesday to the city's Special Housing Working Group, which is tasked with determining what to do with the 619 single-family homes owned by TCH while also dealing with a $750-million repair backlog.

But one TCH resident says it's not right to give certain neighbourhoods a priority.

"They should be looking at the homes that need the most repair, need to be repaired first," Sherri Williams said.

And the new TCH CEO, Gene Jones, says moving heritage homes to the top of the repair list is not an option.

"I think we should come up with an overall strategy," he said. "We shouldn't specifically look at one neighbourhood versus another neighbourhood because that's going to be [a] controversy."

The homes could fetch around $1 million a piece on the market, but Jones said selling them won't help either given the 80,000 people on a waiting list for community housing.

Whatever is decided, Jones says he realizes not everyone will be happy.

"Some people are gonna love us and some people [are] gonna hate us, but we are gonna do what we say we're gonna do and attack that $750-million capital backlog," he said.

Coun. Ana Bailao says one solution being discussed is taking some homes' operation out of the city's hands.

"We've heard from a lot of non-profit organizations and co-ops that are willing to take on some of these homes," she said.

The panel will report to the executive committee in September.