Condition Critical: National residences need $83 million facelift

Canada needs to spend $83 million over the next 10 years just to get its official residences — including 24 Sussex Drive — into half-decent shape.

The National Capital Commission says in a new report that chronic underfunding has left half of the six official residences and many of the associated outbuildings in poor or critical condition.

24 Sussex, National Capital Commission
A view of 24 Sussex Drive. The Prime Minister’s official residence has not been occupied since 2015. Photo by sookie via Flickr Commons.

That includes 24 Sussex Drive, the condition of which is so bad Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not lived there since taking office in 2015, and the main residence at Harrington Lake, which is the country home for the prime minister and his family.

A 10-year injection of $83 million should be enough to get all the properties into good condition, but won’t modernize them and doesn’t include all the costs to increase security recommended by the RCMP.

In addition, the NCC says an annual budget of $24.6 million is needed for ongoing maintenance to prevent the significant deterioration seen today, well above the $7.5 million the commission has spent on average in each of the last 10 years for renovations.

The home at 24 Sussex alone has an electrical system that poses a fire hazard, a plumbing system that fails on a regular basis, and asbestos in many interior finishes that make even minor upgrades difficult and costly.

The building also has no central air conditioning system, necessitating window air conditioners in every room in summer, which poses a costly security risk.

The NCC estimates that the total cost of deferred maintenance at 24 Sussex amounts to $34.5 million, while its replacement value is pegged at almost $38.5 million.

Money is not the only issue, given the lack of predictable worker access to residences due to security reasons.

Four-fifths of the buildings the commission oversees are more than 50 years old, with the remaining one-fifth being more than 150 years old.

“The official residences are not luxurious or extravagant,” the report says.

“However, they reflect the nation to Canadians and to foreign visitors and therefore must be maintained at a level that reflects the importance of the role of the residents and ensures their safety and security as well as the long-term preservation of these national assets.”

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