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Canadian Real Estate Partnerships fight Homelessness

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 05 October 1999 00:00

As the megacity's colourful Mayor Mel Lastman prepares to announce a Call for Proposals to build much-needed affordable housing in Toronto, at the other end of Canada, one Canadian real estate corporation has already joined forces with a British Columbia nonprofit organization to keep people in their homes and off Vancouver's streets. Other groups across Canada, such as the Ontario Realtors and a Toronto nonprofit that teamed up to buy homes for the homeless, have also formed public-private alliances to fight homelessness.

To launch the next phase of Toronto's battle to shelter it's growing homeless population, The megacity will provide four properties which can be developed for affordable housing. The city hopes to encourage creation of development partnerships between nonprofits and alliances with for-profit developers in the process. These relationships work because partners have complimentary goals yet target the same consumer groups which enables them to share expertise and save time and money. Nonprofits have "built-in" clientel they wish to see housed adequately and strong communication networks to reach out into the community. For-profits gain market credibility by association with the nonprofit. This allows them to earn financial returns and strengthens their community image at the same time.

Toronto's Call for Proposals is expected to allow groups approximately three weeks to create housing and community development proposals that meet the, as yet unannounced, housing guidelines.

On the west coast, homelessness is also a growing concern. Vancouver's downtown eastside has been experiencing a "face lift" that continues to cost people their homes. Upscale renovations of the area's old hotels have shortened the list of affordable rental housing, especially for long-term residents on fixed incomes.

As part of an investigation into the business potential of nonprofit housing, Can-West Developments, a private Canadian real estate developer, teamed up with Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Resident's Association (DERA), a nonprofit neighbourhood advocacy group with experience creating and managing more than 560 units of affordable housing. Together they formed a corporation that came to the rescue of low-income singles who called the Metropole Hotel home.

Can-West put $300,000 towards the purchase and renovation of the hotel and engineered the $1.9 million mortgage. DERA manages the building and hopes eventually to buy out Can-West.

This project has not only saved the 60-year-old hotel from transformation to a chic tourist hotel but it also allowed renovation of the 64 hotel rooms to create 64 small bachelor suites, each with its own bathroom and kitchen.

In Toronto, real estate professionals joined forces with a nonprofit group to fight homelessness by doing what they do best. The 18,000-member The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), Canada's largest real estate board, has used member "money smarts"to raise $1 million so that Toronto's Homes First Society can buy homes for the homeless. Homes First, a nonprofit umbrella group for organizations working with the homeless, not only develops and manages housing but encourages the displaced to participate in the creation of their own homes.

Facing a Canadian winter with a roof over your head may be a challenge, but winter on the street is a nightmare. "Hats off" to our many readers who volunteer and support these Vancouver and Toronto groups and similar organizations across Canada.

More Canadian Topics:

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  • Technology Reinvents Canada's Real Estate Boards
  • Canadian Housing: Affordability On The Rebound
  • B.C. Legion behind "Build it For Ourselves" Housing
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