Why Sell Public Assets When You can Rent Them?
Janet Bojti, public education activist and school sales researcher reports: The average school site will sell for a price in the neighbourhood of five to six million dollars. However, long before selling publicly owned school land was all the rage, school boards rented the property when the schools they once housed were no longer viable. If there were no longer enough children in a neighbourhood to justify keeping the local school open, the school board would close the school until the demography altered enough to reopen the school. In the interim, the property was rented.
Leasing school lands has always been profitable for the TDSB. It costs on average about $150,000 to keep the property operating. That’s light, heat and cleaning and routine maintenance. The school board charges on the average $200,000 to tenants. There are plenty of prospective tenants: private schools, community based training programs, other school boards, non-profit agencies, daycare centres and municipal services of one kind or another. The Toronto District School Board currently leases 27 school sites to just such tenants and makes a modest profit.
The Toronto Lands Corporation manages the TDSB’s rental properties as well as its land sales. According to Shirley Hoy, then Director of the Toronto Lands Corporation, as of October 2013 $338 million had been generated from sales and leased properties.
To date the Toronto District School Board has sold 60 properties. The Toronto Lands Corporation shows only a handful of sites for sale these days but that will change soon. The province, anxious to pick up the sales pace and has recently revised its guidelines for school closing to make the process faster and reducing further the few opportunities for public input.