The Housing Again Bulletin, sponsored by Raising the Roof as a partner in Housing Again.
A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are doing to put housing back on the public agenda across Canada and around the world, sponsored by Raising the Roof as part of the Housing Again partnership.
News for November, 2004
Development capacity at its best: Inspiring examples of building affordable housing
Housing advocates worry that in spite of all the talk about homelessness, there are diminishing numbers of people with the will and know-how to make it happen. Development dollars are scarce and volunteers are growing weary of all the talk and little action. But, across the country, there are inspiring examples of creative, innovative approaches to addressing the ever-increasing need for affordable housing. There are people who despite the long hours, risks and growing despair on the streets, are finding solutions…
After barely six months into a process that normally takes years, St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society in Toronto has purchased a hotel/apartment building and turned it into affordable housing for 96 people. The non-profit group, which managed to develop the proposal without the assistance of development capacity funding, didn’t need to seek re-zoning for the project, so their plans weren’t stalled in nasty public meetings, or expensive and time-consuming appeals.
“The building is currently used to rent rooms to singles by the week or month,” said Jon Harstone, one of the key organizers of the project. “We heard about the building last March and confirmed the sale the first week of October, which means by Christmas people will be able to leave shelters and move into safe and secure housing.”
Brian Burch, another organizer with St. Clare’s, said that creating this kind of opportunity is difficult without development capacity funding. “Housing groups are disappearing along with the much-needed skill set,” Burch said. “But, it’s not only development dollars that are needed. We also need development will.”
St. Clare’s purchased the building for $6.5 million. They received $2.7 million from the federal government’s Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative for the homeless, $300,000 from Toronto’s Let’s Build Program and another $500,000 from the city’s Capital Revolving Fund. The remainder of the costs were secured with a conventional mortgage, Harstone said.
In 2000, St. Clare’s purchased another apartment building, which Levitt Goodman Architects converted into 51 apartments for single adult tenants. But, St. Clare’s wanted to expand the project in 2003 and was faced with the problem of no available and affordable land.
Architect Dean Goodman discovered that the structure was originally designed to support two additional floors and figured out that pre-manufactured housing units could be made to fit on top of the four-story building. Construction of the units will take place in a factory and are designed around an exterior landscaped courtyard located on the roof of the existing building. The new 26 units will be placed on top of the building like a Lego block proving that good quality and good design is possible in “mobile architecture,” Goodman said.
Mark Salerno, CMHC district manager for the GTA, told Housing Again that development capacity funding programs, both seed money and training dollars, is “in the infancy stage” and more is needed to help groups develop proposals. He also said that Ontario is “anxious to get back into funding affordable housing.”
But, in the meantime groups like St. Clare’s have to be creative to make things happen at the conception stage. And there are lots of other examples across the country.
Gorge Road Properties in Victoria recently celebrated the opening of Waterway Apartments, a former motel renovated into 49 units of affordable housing.
Transitional and Supportive Housing Services of York Region have begun development in East Gwillimbury of 15 two-bedroom, self-contained pre-fab homes that will be used for families in need of emergency housing. The small buildings will be placed on an existing site that provides emergency shelter.
Central Urban Metis Federation Inc. reclaimed three worn-down apartment buildings in Saskatoon and using renovation dollars rejuvenated them into 36 beautiful, affordable homes.
Le Saint-Charles building opened recently in Beauceville, which is providing 20 new housing units for low-income families – an example of the three levels of government supporting community partners to make affordable housing happen. The Kinkora Development project in Winnipeg is another good example – they purchased a 28-unit apartment building, which they will turn into affordable housing for immigrants and refugees.
And many housing advocates are more than willing to share their skills and expertise. On October 22, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario and the University of Toronto’s Centre for Urban and Community Studies sponsored a free community forum in Toronto for people interested in learning about the cost of developing and operating affordable housing. The seminar featured two panels of experts from co-ops, non-profit and private rental housing organizations, along with development consultants.
November 22nd is the 5th National Housing Day
In 1999, November 22 was declared a day for Canadians to recognize the need for affordable housing. This year, communities across the country will again organizing events, walks, conferences, email campaigns and media releases to acknowledge that housing is a human rights issue. Here is a sampling of initiatives across the country…
The National Anti-Poverty Organization campaign is organizing a “Homelessness is a Human Rights Violation” post card campaign and electronic (email) message system asking Minister Fontana to create/implement a national housing strategy as per the UN's recommendations. NAPO plans to deliver the cards and messages to Minister Fontana on or close to Nov. 22.
Front d'Action Populaire en Réaménagement (FRAPRU) (in Quebec) is organizing a series of regional housing actions as well as a media conference in Ottawa. www.frapru.qc.ca
The Alliance to End Homelessness (in Ottawa) is hosting a community forum on homelessness, with keynote speaker Dr. Stephen Hwang. Topics include: perspectives and experiences of adolescents in family shelters; promoting social inclusion through a harm reduction approach; investigating diversity among the homelessness population; effectiveness of occupational therapy with people at risk of homelessness; youth at risk; vulnerable women; and rent control - its impact on affordable housing. www.spcottawa.on.ca
The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee has been gathering information on its website of community events across the country. TDRC also hosts monthly vigils. On October 24, in honour of Floyd Honey, TDRC held the first annual walk to raise funds to end homelessness and will host a “sleep-over” at city hall on November 21. www.tdrc.net
The Alberta Housing Coalition is hosting a “HomeFest,” a musical event to raise awareness about the housing and homelessness crisis in Canada on November 14th in Edmonton, to be followed by a rally. www.albertahousingcoalition.ca
The CORE Homeless Association (North Bay) is organizing a “speaking convention” at the Legion Hall on November 22. Councillor Peter Papp has agreed to come to North Bay to speak and Rev Terry O'Conner will also be a guest speaker. Start time for the event is 2:00 pm with a light lunch served for the price of $25. Monique Smith MPP for Nipissing has been invited. Topics will include housing, homelessness and poverty. www.corehomeless.faith.at/
Canadian Housing and Renewal Association launched their newly designed website on November 1, which includes development related resource information. www.chra-achru.ca
Toronto Community Foundation
The Toronto Community Foundation released its report, Toronto’s Vital Signs 2004, revealing a portrait of a growing community with considerable strengths, but struggling to ensure its successes benefit all citizens.
The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada has added a feature to their website to help people interested in moving into co-operative housing. The new feature provides mailing addresses, e-mail and website information for individual co-ops, as well as application information.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities released Moving Forward: Refining the FCM recommendations for a National Affordable Housing Strategy in October.