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Civic Impact

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NXT City Prize looks to youth for city planning ideas

Mackenzie Keast wants to engage young people about the future of public space in Toronto, and he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is. His firm, Distl, is one of the partners organizing the NXT City Prize, which offers a five thousand dollar reward for the best ideas in public space. “Really, the NXT City Prize is an opportunity for young people to have their say to what they want public spaces in their city to look like,” Keast says.
The NXT City Prize wants ideas from youth, defined as those under 35 years old, because, as Keast explains, “it’s an important time for this very large demographic. They’re entering this stage of their life cycle—buying homes, having kids—and their decisions are going to have a massive impact on our cities over the next thirty to forty years.” Keast says that this group is currently the least likely to be participating in this type of long-term city planning. “The baby boomers are still leading that,” he says, adding, “This is an opportunity for these highly educated, underemployed, tech-knowledgeable people to get engaged.”
The NXT City Prize offers a variety of categories, including best under-18 submission, best sustainability and energy submission, and best overall. This year, judges will look at submissions from all over Canada as young people step forward with their best public space ideas. After the July 31 deadline, the city will implement winning proposals using Section 37 funds raised from developers. Last year’s winner suggested that Yonge Street be pedestrianized, an idea that is currently under consideration by the city’s planning department.
As for what aspiring city planners should keep in mind as they create in 2015, Keast says, “We’re focusing on the theme of opportunity this year. What are the opportunities to breathe new life in forgotten spaces, or create new economic opportunities in spaces?” His own goals are loftier. “We want to keep young people excited about making their city a great place to live, for them to shape it for future generations.”

Author: Kailtyn Kochany
Source: Mackenzie Keast

Outside the Box program turns Toronto into an unexpected art gallery

“There is room for artists to express themselves on the street. But the difference between graffiti and graffiti vandalism is permission,” says Lilie Zendel. She’s the Manager at StreetArtToronto, known as StART, a division of the city’s Transportation Services department. One way that StART moves artists from vandalism to beauty is through their Outside the Box initiative, which transforms unassuming traffic signal boxes into vibrant works of art.
The program, now in its third year, has grown from 25 boxes in 2012, to over 50 spread across the GTA. Both professional and amateur artists are encouraged to apply to leave their mark. “We spent time criss-crossing the city and finding out where the boxes are, so people can create site-specific work,” Zendel explains. The current boxes range from colourful  swirling florals to high-intensity animal portraits.
The program was initially conceived to cut down on vandalism-related cleaning costs. “It was almost by accident that I discovered that Transportation Services pays a hefty amount of money to keep those boxes clean,” Zendel explains. “I asked them to set aside some money,” which she then used to run the program and pay the participating artists. “What we’re trying to do is get people to recognize that public space is shared space. We want Torontonians to look after public spaces the way they would look after their own homes.”
So far, the reaction to the traffic signal boxes has been positive. “I heard from people about the lovely boxes that had appeared on their streets, and they started showing up on Instagram.” And, as Zendel had hoped, the cleaning costs have gone down. There is another benefit to traffic signal boxes: they transform the city into a de facto art gallery. “We don’t put any advertising on the box, or identify it as a city of Toronto box. We encourage artists to sign the boxes and include their websites,” Zendel says. “We’ve had comments that, for some people, it’s the only art they see in their daily life.”
Applications to the program are open until May 8, 2015. “I think a lot people don’t realize the enormous wealth of artistic talent in Toronto. StART has tried to make the Outside the Box program as accessible as possible. People don’t have to be professional, they just have to be thoughtful and passionate.”

Author: Kaitlyn Kochany
Source: Lilie Zendel

Small Is Good: Lloyd Alter talks sustainability at ProfTalks

When it comes to sustainability, Lloyd Alter doesn’t mince his words. “We use too much of everything, and the key to sustainability is to use less, and the key to using less happily is to design better.”

He’s talking to a crowd of about fifty people during ProfTalks, the annual one-day learning event at the Toronto Reference Library. His one-hour talk is called “Designing Our Homes and Cities Better: Small is the New Big.” It’s an exploration of the complicated systems we’ve designed to help boost sustainability, and how—and if—they really work.
Alter, an architect by training, makes several key points throughout his talk. The first is that Canadian culture faces over-reliance on the automobile, which contributes to climate change. “Two-thirds of our carbon problem comes either from our buildings, or driving to them,” he says. Switching from cars to bicycles is his first recommendation. The second is to build houses that are dense and urban—but not too dense. He’s aiming for what he calls the “Goldilocks density,” which supports transit and local commerce, but still allows for parks and green spaces, which substitute for private suburban yards. Finally, houses should be built to be tightly sealed and very well insulated, which allows heating and cooling costs to level out, even in the face of climate change-driven extreme weather.
Throughout the talk, Alter gives his audience a mini history lesson. One of his slides is a vintage shot of a then-new Don Valley Parkway. “Can you imaging trying to put a superhighway through the Don Valley now? It’s Toronto’s greatest green asset! But back then, they put that highway on postcards,” he says to laughter. He also mentions the tiny house movement, which he describes as interesting but ultimately unsustainable, since current zoning regulations don’t allow them to be permanently installed in very many urban places.
Alter saves his heaviest criticism for the complicated sustainability systems that are currently on the market. Instead of computer-run eco-houses and smart phone-enabled thermostats, Alter would like to see houses built to be better insulated and make use of the passive sunlight, both old technologies that will outlive obsolete computer-driven products.
While Alter doesn’t discuss the perspective of those who may not be in the position to design their homes this way—because they’re renters, or simply because they can’t afford large-scale renovations—his talk is friendly and informative. In the Q&A portion, a lively debate breaks out over the merits of smart meters and the Gardiner Expressway. Both Alter and the ProfTalks audience seem to be invested in creating a better world, but the road forward isn’t always smooth.

Source: Lloyd Alter

CivicAction's Better City Bootcamp whips Toronto into shape

“We’re looking for a day where the big issues that matter and the big thinkers that care come together for the sake of our city and region.” Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO of CivicAction, doesn’t dream small. This year, the CivicAction summit, happening April 28, is called The Better City Bootcamp, and its goal is to get the Toronto region into shape.

The day will open with remarks from local political heavyweights like Toronto mayor John Tory and the Premiere of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne. In the afternoon, panel discussions will dig deep on the five areas that CivicAction has identified as being key issues for the region: affordable housing, especially for seniors; mental health in the workplace; early childhood health (what the summit calls “the first 1000 days”); infrastructure that can handle increasingly unpredictable weather and urbanization; and how public spaces affect public health.

The summit, which is held every four years, is also an opportunity for leaders like the recent winners of the ELN Showcase event to network and promote their own community-minded ideas. “The showcase’s top two groups will be profiled at the summit’s Civic Marketplace, and be given some great civic profile.” In addition to the event’s on-site programming, there will be two satellite locations, in Rexdale and Scarborough, as well as a live feed of the event online. Both are offered for the first time in 2015.

Ultimately, the event is about forward momentum for the Toronto region. Palvetzian stresses the summit’s importance when it comes to making change in the city. “We want this event to not only spur a great day of conversation, but to spur action. We’re civic action, not civic chit chat.” The goal, Palvetzian says, is “a great compilations of ideas that will have been crowd-sourced throughout the day.” CivicAction uses these summits to get forward momentum on the issues they want to tackle. “This event is the gas in CivicAction’s tank for the next four years,” Palvetzian says.


People's Queen Street looks to the city's sexiest thoroughfare to prompt civic engagement

“We’re running a series of tactical urban workshops, which is just a fancy way of asking how we can go out into the city and have fun,” says Edward Nixon, one of the founders of People’s Queen Street, when explaining his group's upcoming event, called “Change the Street. Change the City.” Happening April 25 at the Centre for Social Innovation’s Spadina location, the daylong event is a mix of panel discussions and hands-on brainstorming sessions. The goal is to generate ideas for 100 In A Day, a global community-driven civic action initiative.

Naturally, Nixon’s group will focus on Queen Street. In the past, People’s Queen Street has run events like the Queen Street Walk, which saw a group of about 60 people explore the length of the street from Neville Park to Roncesvalles. This year, they’ll try to capitalize on Queen Street’s already-robust street scene. Nixon says, “You don’t need to be a planning or transportation expert to realize that the bulk of the people in the area are on foot or on transit. When you look at how to change the conversation, Queen Street is the low-hanging fruit.”

The event will kick off with a panel that includes Matthew Blackett, the founder and publisher of Spacing magazine; Ken Greenberg, the former Director of Urban Design and Architecture for the city of Toronto, author of Walking Home: The Life and Lessons of a City Builder, and one of the speakers for Yonge Street's May 20 speakers series event; and Ren Thomas, who examines how temporarily car-free spaces (such as Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sundays) influence how people see that space. In the afternoon, participants will work in groups to conceive of new ways to shape Queen Street’s pedestrian culture. Previous group sessions have led to ideas like mini-parks: “Last year, we took over parking spaces near Soho Street, put down grass and hammocks and had a great response from passers-by. It was a great physical manifestation of what we were talking about.”

Nixon hopes that the event on April 25 will mark the start a neighbourly conversation. “We want to build a larger circle of like-minded folks to continue to work on projects to work on Queen Street, to enhance the public spirit of the street with bikes, art, and pedestrians. We want to use this to kick off a regular series of events.”

Source: Edward Nixon

OCAD University marks its 100th anniversary Grad Ex showcase

With over 6,000 students enrolled in 14 undergraduate programs and six graduate programs, the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) University (OCAD University) is the largest art school in the country. Naturally, its signature blockbuster event is its annual art show. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Grad Ex, coinciding with the largest graduating class in the school’s history. Over 900 students will be exhibiting their work.

“Thankfully, we have an app,” says Christine Crosbie, communications and media relations officer for the school. “When people are looking for their friends’ or family members’ work, they can type their name into the app and find where they are in the space.”

Nearly every public surface of four OCAD buildings will be covered in art. Crosbie says the event’s biggest logistical challenge is coming up with the space. “It can be hard to find ways to display the actual objects,” she says. With the evolution of technology to include programs like digital painting and video production, the exhibition will include video screens, as well as object that were made using innovative technology like laser cutters and 3D printers. “There’s a lot of interactivity,” Crosbie says.

To mark the centennial of the show, OCAD organizers have added an extra day to the event, which kicks off April 29. This gives the winners of the school’s awards extra time to display their work. “Every year, in each program, one graduate is elected as a medal winner. On the evening of the opening, the medal winners will be announced and their work will be shown on the Great Hall.” Programs include areas such as painting, curatorial studies, and design.

Crosbie also says that that graduates use the show as an opportunity to launch the next phase of their artistic careers. “You get a chance to meet the artists in person, and some of these people are going to be very successful in the next few years. We get talent scouts attending this show.” One of these success stories is Gary Taxali, a graduate of OCAD and the illustrator of this year’s event poster. He’s now a professor at OCAD, and works for clients like Esquire and GQ. Regardless of their post-graduate plans, Crosbie thinks Grad Ex remains a memorable moment for OCAD students. “For some students, this is the first big exhibition of their work. It’s a really important moment for them.”

Source: Christine Crosbie

The Emerging Leaders Network city-building pitch contest allows Toronto�s best new ideas to shine

“Tonight, we’re putting wind in the sails of great civic ideas.” No small claim from Alexandra Stewart, the host of the Emerging Leaders Network’s ELNshowcase. April 9 saw the second edition of the annual pitch contest for civic improvements, which pits community-minded Torontonians against each other in a friendly competition for funding and resources. This year, five teams competed to win the showcase’s top prize: one thousand dollars and a hotdesk at the Centre for Social Innovation. Each team was allowed 12 minutes to explain their city-changing idea, then faced scrutiny from the judges, Dragon’s Den-style.

The teams presented to a full audience and a judges table that included Ian Black from Uber; the Centre for Social Innovation’s Adil Dhalla; and CP24 reporter Arda Zakarian. They were friendly and buoyant—the Hon. Michael Chan, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade, broke into a soft-shoe shuffle when he was introduced—but their questions, about neighbourhood buy-in, corporate partners, marketing plans, and bottom lines, were designed to dig deeper into how each program would work in real-life Toronto.

The teams were tackling the big issues of what makes Toronto a truly successful city. Cultiv8tor asked the audience to image co-working spaces that include childcare, while The Best Person Project hoped to boost young women’s professional confidence as they began their careers. Project CORE aimed to beef up the youth programming in Regent Park, and cARTe Blanche billed themselves as “public art matchmakers,” proposing the city take advantage of the cultural phenomenon Nuit Blanche by installing the event’s popular art pieces throughout the city on a permanent basis.

In the end, it was Unite Toronto: For One 6, that took the prize. Todd Hofley, who presented on behalf of the two-man team, talked about the potential for connection in the city. He runs the popular Liberty Village Residents Association, and wants to export what he calls “a unique and powerful model of city building” to neighbourhoods across the GTA. By creating engaged residents associations, Unite Toronto: For One 6 hopes to drive local business, reduce loneliness and depression, and foster connections between people.  

ProfTalks aims to educate and entertain

Libby Gillman wants to teach you something. She’s the organizer of ProfTalks, happening April 25 at the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library. ProfTalks, now in its second year, is a carefully curated event aimed at lifelong learners. Its goal is to join professors—people Gillman describes as “a font of knowledge”—with Baby Boomers who love culture and entertainment.

Gillman decided to import the idea to Toronto after attending a similar event in New York. “It was a very robust and entertaining group of courses, aimed primarily at boomers,” she explains. “Classes aren’t available to the general public, and we don’t always have the time or opportunity to make a commitment to taking a university course.” Instead, ProfTalks offers a day-long event, featuring six one-hour seminars on topics as diverse as Alfred Hitchcock, political sex scandals, and debunking celebrity-driven health fads. Lloyd Alter, who teaches design at Ryerson University, will be speaking about the importance of going small when designing cities and homes.

Professors who are both experts in their fields and renowned public speakers lead each course. As an example, she offers Bruce Conforth. “He’s the highest rated professor at the University of Michigan and the original curator of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland,” Gillman says. He’ll be teaching a course for ProfTalks called The Bluesy Roots of American Popular Music, where he shares deep knowledge of the American blues music scene, and rounds out the educational portion with live musical performances.

She’s equally excited about the entire roster. “Each one is a gem. These are people who speak at major institutions throughout North America,” she says. “I’m excited to see how Toronto will react.”

Gillman, who is a lawyer by day, also sees this event as an opportunity for boomers to connect with each other, and with big ideas. “ProfTalks’s competition are things like the opera and the ballet,” she says. She cites both entertainment and the chance to “learn interesting things in the company of likeminded people” as the reasons people would attend. “Boomers are looking for things to do that are healthy, mindful, active, and not related to work.” ProfTalks allows them to revisit the university classrooms of their youth and learn in a very 21st century way.   

Source: Libby Gillman

G Day for Girls connects preteen girls with strong female role models

The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is something Emily Rose Antflick has taken to heart. She’s the Toronto leader of G Day for Girls, a one-day event happening April 26 that aims to celebrate girls ages 10 to 12 as they take their first steps towards womanhood.

Also in attendance will be adults, which G Day refers to as champions: the person in each girl’s life who will pledge to support her. “A big part of this is intergenerational sharing. We show the girls a diversity of perspectives, and allow them to hear different stories,” Antflick says. Antflick, who trained as a Rite of Passage facilitator in Bali, elaborates: “We’re really trying to create the village, which is something that’s happened all over the world and throughout human history. It’s something that our culture has lost touch with, so we’re inviting the champions to come and be the village for this one day.”

G Day for Girls will host nearly 400 participants, split between youth and adults. The girls will have a day of workshops built around themes of body positivity, encouraging female friendship, the safe use of technology, and sisterhood; the workshops for adults will include teaching safe sex to teens and achieving work-life balance. At the end of the day, the champions and the girls will be reunited for a ceremony that will see the adults welcome the girls into womanhood with dance, affirmations, written words, and other elements they will create during the day.

“There are a lot of questions in families around how to support girls and their mothers during a time when the roles can become very adversarial. When these difficult times come up, it’s possible to pull up memories and have the touchstone of good memories. It creates a positive space that doesn’t always arise naturally in families.”

Antflick chose to hold the event at the Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park partly because it is already home to a number of culturally-driven organizations. “We wanted a space that was really embedded in the community,” she says. G Day will also offer a number of discounted or free tickets, “so we’re really hoping to make it accessible to the whole community.” Proceeds from ticket sales will help support AFRIpads, a sustainable menstrual product initiative in Uganda.

Mostly, Antflick hopes that the event helps support girls as they move into their teen years. “When we don’t create this type of thing for children, they start taking on themselves, and the types of things that kids do aren’t always safe or aimed at growth.” 

Source: Emily Antflick

Courage Labs nurture anti-oppression and soul-searching in the arts community

What does it mean to be an artist in a country that’s been built on colonized Native land? Or to be an artist in a city where newcomers may not have the same opportunities as Canadian-born people to tell their stories? How can arts venues be more inclusive and how can the artwork that gets produced in Toronto speak more evocatively about experiences of ethnicity, race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, class, disability and income disparity?
These are a few of the issues the Neighbourhood Arts Network and SKETCH, working with AVNU, set out explore when they came up with the idea for the Courage Lab series of workshops, the fourth of which takes place tonight at Artscape Youngplace. Tonight’s lab will gather artists, educators and community leaders to explore the topic of decolonization and equity in the arts. About 45 people attended the last Courage Lab.
“What’s different about the Courage Labs is that we don’t point fingers at the arts community,” says Ella Cooper, manager of the Neighbourhood Arts Network. “We’re really looking at ourselves as individuals to find ways we can make positive shifts to make positive change. The people who are showing up are really excited about having these dialogues about what can be considered to be tough subjects.”
The labs encourage participants to bring their ideas and concerns to the table, presenting them to the whole group and then in smaller group-defined break-out sessions. Workshop groups might report back with words, skits, spoken-word poems, dance pieces—anything that embodies the night’s interactions and learning. How do we look at art from a less Western perspective? Who gets to tell which stories? How can there be more equity in the arts community?
The issues and ideas that come up at the lab will feed into a much larger three-day conference, Emergence 2015, this fall, which will bring together arts leaders, policy-makers academics and public-space advocates to explore arts and equity.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Ella Cooper
Photo: Fonna Seidu

West side youth get their own health clinic

Comparing needs assessments they had been working on, Planned Parenthood Toronto and the Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre (DPNCHC) came to very similar conclusions: youth in the DPNCHC neighbourhood and surrounding communities were under-served compared to the rest of the city when it came to access to health services.
Youth in the central-west neighbourhood have poorer health outcomes than those in many other parts of the city. Planned Parenthood Toronto also knew that as many as 30 per cent of the clients at its downtown location are coming from the west, though they were unsure how many of those youth weren’t coming because they were hesitant to seek help at all or were visiting in hospital emergency rooms for problems that could better be handled in a clinic.
So the two organizations have joined forces to create EdgeWest, a new drop-in clinic offering free and confidential medical, mental and sexual healthcare services in a youth-positive environment. After a soft opening last December, the clinic has expanded its hours to three days a week leading up to its official opening this week. Working with LOFT mental health services, and consulting with more than 300 young people, the agencies came up with what they hope will be a winning concept.
“We heard quite clearly that the youth wanted it to be confidential and non-judgemental,” says Sarah Hobbs-Blyth, executive director at Planned Parenthood Toronto. “Youth really want a place they can trust. At EdgeWest, youth can just as easily receive counselling for depression as they can purchase low-cost birth control, or have a common cold diagnosed. Everyone working at EdgeWest is committed to offering services that are youth positive, LGBTQ positive, sex positive, pro-choice, confidential and non-judgmental.”
That means no appointments are necessary—and no health card required either.
The clinic is in the process of setting up a youth advisory committee and plans to soon work with other partners—offering legal services, for example—to provide more options for clients. Located in a renovated DPNCHC space with its own entrance, they’ll also be turning to young people to come up with a plan about how the clinic should look.
“The space is very blank and white right now and we’re waiting for the youth voice to say what it needs to look like to give the space a better vibe,” says Hobbs-Blyth.
EdgeWest is located within at 1900 Davenport Road, and is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 4-8pm, and Saturdays from 10am-2pm.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Sarah Hobbs-Blyth

Conference aims to get healthcare out the hospital and onto your smartphone

Healthcare wonks and tech geeks went head-to-head this week at the Coding the Future of Healthcare conference, as they brainstormed solutions to problems faced by frontline healthcare providers.
Brought together by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), participants worked to find ways to use digital technology to shrink distances between patients and professionals, streamlining services so that the best healthcare might be right in your pocket.
“Telemedicine continues to help improve the delivery and management of care throughout our province every day,” says OTN CEO Ed Brown. “Tailored and integrated solutions will provide Ontario with the tools it needs to create a sustainable, patient-centered healthcare system." 
The confab is also hosted the Hacking Health Design Challenge, an concept which has seen 17 incarnations, both in Canada and abroad, since it was founded in Montreal in 2012. The challenge puts healthcare professionals, designers and engineers together to wrestle with ways to digitally solve everyday problems. The teams now have eight weeks to produce a demo to be showcased at the National eHealth Conference at the end of May.
“We want to see what comes out of an environment where people who have different sets of skills, but who don’t typically talk to each other on a day-to-day basis, work together creatively,” says Hadi Salah, life sciences industry analyst with MaRS Market Intelligence and a co-founder of Hacking Health. “The idea is not about creating businesses, but solving problems. What happens is up to the teams. We’ve had projects drop off and not get picked up. We’ve had projects that have gone commercial. We’ve had a project that went from inception to acquisition within six months of the hackathon. And we’ve had a project where a hospital has taken on as its own.”
The conference hacking event was sold out. Though OTN had planned for about 100 participants, about 230 hackers signed up.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Hadi Salah

Danforth gets funding for adopt-a-tree program

The life of a city tree can be tough. Pollution, road salt, litter, bicycle locks and soil compaction are just a few of the hazards trees face in the line of duty.
But a new pilot project on the Danforth aims to encourage businesses and residents to work together to keep their local trees healthy.
The Danforth’s adopt-a-tree program, submitted by the city's Forestry Policy and Planning department, just received $15,000 from the TD Green Streets program. It’s one of 22 communities across Canada that have received TD Green Streets grants to kickstart and support urban forestry projects. More than 125 communities applied for the $300,000 worth of grants this year, all of them judged by Tree Canada for innovation, community involvement, technical expertise and maintenance among other criteria.
“We’re looking for a departure from just planting a tree,” says Sarah Quann, a project manager for Tree Canada. “We want projects to go a bit further to get the community behind the effort.”
The Danforth project proposes a collaboration with several stakeholders, including BIAs and the not-for-profit group LEAF. As many as 100 trees would be adopted by local residents, businesses and organizations. Adoptees would take care of their trees according to a manual that comes with the adoption documents.
“The success of the program will be measured through surveys throughout the process, looking at the satisfaction of the stakeholders themselves and the volunteers,” says Quann.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Sarah Quann

Construction starts on new Eva�s Phoenix youth housing

This week Toronto got a sneak peak at the future of home of Eva’s Phoenix, freshly poured slabs, piles of newly delivered structural steel and all.
The new facility at 60 Brant Street, near Spadina and Richmond, will provide housing for 50 youth aged 16 to 24 years, for up to a full year in 10 townhouses. While living in transition housing, the youth get access to training, counselling and a wide range of other services, including opportunities working in the on-site commercial printing house.
The new location pretty much replicates the design of the existing location near Liberty Village, which the not-for-profit must leave by the end of the year—it’s slated for redevelopment by landlord Build Toronto. The original location was designed in consultation with homeless youth more than 12 years ago.
“The design has really stood the test of time, except there will be additional washrooms. Because when you have five people waiting for one washroom, that can be challenging,” says Maria Crawford, director of Eva’s Initiatives, which operates three projects for youth at risk, including Eva’s Phoenix. The new location, close to three streetcar routes, will be more convenient for young people trying to build lives and careers.
The move has already been about four years in the making. Build Toronto, along with the city, helped Eva’s Phoenix find its new home, which is part of a larger development that will have a mix of residential and commercial uses. The organization has had to fundraise $5 million of the $10.5-million cost of the move, though they’re currently in the home stretch of meeting their goal.
As about 50 homeless youth did during the construction of the original Eva’s Phoenix, youth will work with the builders as part of a construction and property maintenance program. Crawford says that idea has proven successful. Some of the youth who worked on the original location a dozen years ago are still working with the contractor they were matched up with back then—and will be returning to work on the new facility.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Maria Crawford

City funds help Options for Homes build diverse new condo project

Options for Homes has always dedicated itself making home ownership more affordable for Torontonians who may otherwise not be able to buy a home. But with its Cranbrooke Village project, which officially opened last week near Bathurst and Lawrence, it was able to provide housing for buyers who made have found it impossible to get a mortgage any other way.
Established in 1994, the not-for-profit helps buyers with their mortgage down payment by providing loans that are only paid back when the buyer rents or sells the property. But with Cranbrooke Village, a $1.42-million investment from the City of Toronto’s Home Ownership Assistance Program (HOAP) enabled the program to give about 25% of the home owners extra help.
“The average person [in the Options for Home program] would get $30,000 towards the down payment. The city allowed us to increase that by up to $70,000 or $80,000 in total, which gave lower-income individuals a chance to own,” says Mike Labbé, Options President and CEO. “Our homes usually allow for people with incomes $20,000 less than the average owner to have a chance to own. By the city getting involved, we were able to reduce that by another $10,000 or so of annual income.”
The condos, built by Deltera, a member of the Tridel group of companies, are more affordable from the get-go. Permission for increased density allowed for lower land costs for the 341 units. “The community support for this project is one of the things that made it stand out,” says Labbé. As well the Options for Homes strategy kept marketing, sales and commissions costs to about $4,000 per unit, a reduction of about $20,000 over the regular market. In the design, amenities are kept to a minimum—a multipurpose room, which Labbé estimates saves another $15,000 per unit.
Home Ownership Alternatives
also contributed $584,000 to the project.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Mike Labbé
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