Toronto Star: TCHC keeps records on façade collapse secret
Posted July 30, 2015
Housing provider refuses to provide engineers’ reports on 3171 Eglinton Ave. E., where bricks falling from the walls were just the latest problem.
Posted July 30, 2015
Toronto Community Housing refuses to release reports prepared by engineers who investigated a façade collapse at 3171 Eglinton Ave. East, a building with a history of maintenance and property standards issues.
The Star requested reports prepared by engineers investigating the incident that occurred April 4, in which a four-storey section of a building’s façade crumbled, raining bricks on the ground below. No one was injured.
“This building should be condemned,” tenant Lisa Donsmuir said after the collapse. “Honest to God, this is a terrible place to live.”
The city had previously noted that the building’s “exterior walls (were) not being maintained in good repair,” according to a Municipal Licensing and Standards report.
TCHC says it completed repairs on the building’s exterior in 2011. The city described the matter as “closed” in the 2015 report.
Toronto Community Housing Corporation said in a statement on Wednesday that the collapse was likely caused by the building’s “original design and construction flaws.” 3171 Eglinton East was built about 1965, according to TCHC.
“An ‘unintended’ cavity behind the bricks and lack of weeping holes for proper drainage resulted in water accumulation behind the brick masonry, which combined with freeze/thaw over the years led to the deterioration of the bond brick,” TCHC spokesperson Lisa Murray said in an email.
And because of possible legal action, Murray said, TCHC would not release the reports the Star requested under freedom of information legislation. Murray would not elaborate on the nature of any legal action.
The Star requested all reports prepared between April 4 and June 26 by the engineers TCHC hired to investigate the collapse.
TCHC identified 19 pages of records that were entailed by the Star’s request: reports from April 11 and 20, two “site review reports” and a sketch completed sometime in April.
“Should TCHC decide to pursue legal avenues as a result, releasing the details of the engineer’s findings publicly could compromise our ability to recoup money on behalf of TCHC and our shareholder, the City of Toronto,” Murray said in an email.
TCHC tenant Donna Borden was skeptical of TCHC’s explanation.
“They did things differently in 1965 than they do now. So wouldn’t it be up to them to make sure . . . everything was up to date?” said Borden, a leader with the Toronto branch of the social-justice advocacy group ACORN Canada. “I think, maybe, it’s just an excuse.”
According to Murray, TCHC paid an engineering firm $8,000 to investigate the collapse and provide other services. TCHC also retained a contractor to provide emergency containment repair on the building’s brick cladding for $178,000. And investigation and testing of the brick walls at 3171 and 3181 Eglinton Ave. E. cost $110,000 and involved a building-restoration company, an architectural firm and a safety consultant.
Local Councillor Gary Crawford (open Gary Crawford’s policard) said TCHC’s explanation was adequate and said the agency has to protect its ability to recoup money.
“That totally makes sense to me,” Crawford said.
Article by Stephen Spencer Davis for the Toronto Star