Rob Ford likes the idea of selling off some 900 publicly-funded houses, but wants the windfall to pay down next year’s deficit instead of repairing other units.

The outgoing managing director of Toronto Community Housing, Case Ootes, held a press conference Thursday to reveal his plan to address the public landlord’s $650-million repair backlog and “crisis state.”

He said the TCHC could raise an estimated $400 million by selling off its scattered houses and use the money to fix the other 57,000-plus crumbling units in its stock.

“Senior levels of government aren’t riding to the rescue,” Ootes said. “Toronto Community Housing needs to address this challenge head-on. Selling houses and applying the proceeds to the repair backlog is a better option than raising taxes, raising rents which cannot legally be done, diverting money from other city programs or doing nothing.”

But in a comment hours after the announcement, Ford said he’d rather use the money to address the city’s $774-million shortfall.

“I agree – Let’s sell these homes. Let’s take that revenue,” he said. “Obviously, we need the money to fund next year’s budget.”

When pressed, Ford said part of the proceeds might be used for repairs.

“Some could go to housing. Some could go to next year’s budget. It all depends. We would have to see.”

Ootes also said the TCHC could sell outdated and largely vacant buildings and loosen municipal and provincial restrictions which result in units sitting empty because they must be fixed – no matter the cost – or sold and replaced.

The sale of housing would need approval from the board of directors, the city and the province. And according to one news report, a TCHC spokesperson said keeping the profits for the housing corporation would be a condition of sale.