habitat for humanity toronto

You can apply to live in a downtown Toronto condo at a fraction of the normal price

Housing is a hot-button issue in Toronto, the city facing a desperate shortage of accessibly-priced homes as the real estate market's growth continues to accelerate on a seemingly orbital trajectory.

For lower-income home buyers, options in the city are scant. According to the National Bank of Canada, condo purchasers need to rake in an annual household income of $134,726 as of late 2021. Even at that well-above-average salary, it would take over four years just to save up for a ten per cent down payment.

But there are still a few ways for lower-income families to realize the increasingly unattainable dream of home-ownership despite climbing market rates. Perhaps the best-known player in lower-income housing is international charity Habitat for Humanity, which builds subsidized homes in partnership with developers.

This includes not just the single-family homes the organization is most commonly associated with, but also units within large condo towers, like a recently-completed project at the edge of Toronto's St. James Town neighbourhood.

Partnering with developers Alterra, Diamondcorp and Kilmer Group, Habitat for Humanity has secured eight condominium units within the 159SW development at 159 Wellesley Street, three of which still remain available.

Johnny Keogh, Communications Manager for Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area, tells blogTO that instead of paying a fixed cost for the units, families only pay a fraction of the market rate, based on family income and "depending on build type, size, and location" of the unit.

"Our program initially sets shelter costs at a maximum of 32 per cent of gross household income, and that includes mortgage, property taxes, insurance and condo fees," says Keogh. "In addition, Habitat families are not required to provide a down payment."

There are still determining criteria that will rule out many prospective owners, with Keogh saying that "Habitat homeowners must be approved by an external lender for their affordable mortgage. Employment, household debt, and credit ratings are considered during the approval process."

In the case of this downtown condo tower, the few available units and the required household income of $87K to $97K aren't going to add up to a quick solution to the affordable housing crisis, but they literally open doors for families who otherwise wouldn't have a shot at owning a home in the city centre.

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