The homeless in a city that can’t grow an economy

We Charity Sells Downtown Toronto Properties for $36 Million, and Some Went for a Loss by Kevin Vallely We Charity, a non-profit that uses infrastructure, facilities and equipment from downtown Toronto developments for use…

The homeless in a city that can't grow an economy

We Charity Sells Downtown Toronto Properties for $36 Million, and Some Went for a Loss

by Kevin Vallely

We Charity, a non-profit that uses infrastructure, facilities and equipment from downtown Toronto developments for use by over 200 residents of three affordable housing projects in the GTA, has sold five properties and a condominium to fund a wider expansion of its property holdings.

It retained seven properties and issued a request for proposals for five properties to be part of a development with a long-term owner but sold one to BlackStar Corporation and the other five to Saguenay Homes, which made only marginal returns. The donations of some, such as 21 penthouses in Saguenay Homes’ condominium project at 15 Venlo Drive, gave the land away and helped fund a centre for rejuvenating residential neighbourhoods that was not dependent on the property for income.

Selling any properties is tricky business, especially if you buy them only to rent them out. Landowners are sometimes unwilling to part with property they want to keep as income but sell because it is outside their planned development. Add to that the cost of building and the uncertainty about future value, and there can be problems.

When you have a community of older people with very limited assets that requires housing for seniors, you have challenges. We are seeing the result of a housing market that has driven prices up well beyond expectations but that has left a lot of units in need of housing for senior citizens that fall outside of its typical reach. Not everyone wants to buy or rent; every income class doesn’t want to be part of the market. The result is that We Charity has invested heavily in providing land for affordable housing that would otherwise sit empty, while trying to establish partnerships with funders that will be necessary to secure financing in the future.

Contemporary land-management problems are similar to problems we faced in the late 20th century when we needed to relieve the housing crisis in Toronto. In the early 1970s, we switched to developing on vacant land to meet housing demand. But that was only part of the problem: We saw that we could improve quality in the older housing stock but on an experimental basis as a down payment to upgrading the services that older units required. As concerns about quality mounted, leading to the demise of the city’s recreation commission, we created a framework for affordable housing development and the use of facilities and services.

By the mid-1970s, plans had been developed for the upgrading of older units to today’s standards. We lost control of many of the housing developments to the higher profile developers with reduced budgets and less patience to meet the expectations of individual residents.

That has not been the situation in the past decade: We currently have about 30,000 rental units, with quality comparable to the best that can be expected anywhere in the country, and the private sector is becoming involved, which will allow development to move even faster.

We Charity’s purchase of Downtown Toronto properties has paid off, and the increase in prices reflects the additional requirements of residents and improved developments. We are now ramping up to build nearly 500 units of housing over the next two years.

This site is northeast of York University. Existing population in the area exceeds 13,000 people. It is anchored by several institutions and includes some of Toronto’s leading researchers in economics, engineering, medicine, and engineering.

This page contains materials from The Guardian and other third party sources. Copyright: The Guardian.

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