TORONTO — A fundraising initiative by the Kehilla Residential Programme will enable more Torontonians to enjoy affordable housing.
Kehilla, Toronto’s non-profit housing agency, runs a rental assistance program that provides up to $300 per month to help families in need meet rental costs.
Kehilla currently supports 26 households that are forced to pay more than 35 per cent of their gross incomes on rent.
Nancy Singer, Kehilla’s executive director, said that in an attempt to add more funds to the rental assistance program and potentially help more families struggling to make ends meet, the agency has reached out to successful community developers for help.
“We put together a list of developers who have done well in the community, and the ask was to give back to the community. It is also a product that they know really well – housing,” Singer said.
“They were extremely supportive.”
To date, the campaign has secured 19 gifts of $10,000 each, substantially increasing funding for the program.
Singer said what’s great about the initiative is that it provides “immediate gratification.
“The advantage of a rental assistance program is that you can help people immediately,” she said.
“We’re not waiting five years, eight years, to build an affordable housing unit that can cost a lot of money and time,” she said, adding that the $190,000 that was raised for the rental assistance program will help sustain the program for more people.
“We have nearly 100 people on the waiting list and it grows every day.”
Another positive development at Kehilla saw 24 people placed into affordable housing units at the Heathview, a new rental building in the heart of the Forest Hill Village.
Singer said that through an agreement with the City of Toronto, Kehilla worked closely with Morguard, a real estate investment company, to provide 24 affordable units at the Heathview for 10 years.
Bachelor units at the Heathview are available for rent for about $1,300 a month, but under the agreement with Kehilla, clients pay $725. The market value for one-bedroom units runs between $1,600 and $1,800 a month, but Kehilla clients pay $950.
“But after 10 years, the rent could go up 30 per cent a year,” Singer said.
She said half the residents of the subsidized units are referred by Jewish Family & Child, and the other half come from Kehilla’s waiting list.
Late last year, Kehilla was also involved in addressing a “crisis” following the closure of a North York Jewish nursing home called Ahavas Achim Retirement Home.
“We called an emergency meeting, and we had everybody who has anything to do with housing in the area,” Singer said.
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and Kehilla were notified about the closure in October and learned they only had until the end of 2014 to find new housing for 23 residents, most of whom have long-standing mental illnesses including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
After collaborating with a number of Jewish community organizations, along with the Community Care Access Centre, an agency that delivers home and community health care, all of the 23 residents were successfully transitioned to alternate housing and care sites by the end of the year.
“Although this was a retirement home, what we discovered is that quite a number of the residents were under 60, living with challenges and inappropriately housed,” Singer said in a statement.
“There is a serious lack of supportive housing for this population that ends up in seniors homes or other inappropriate facilities.”
Singer said that although Kehilla had a productive year, the housing agency still faces many challenges.
“We’re in a [good] position now because we have a premier who gets it, we have a mayor who gets it. We probably need a change at the federal level on social housing policies, but it’s very hard to move forward,” she said.
“It hard to move ministries forward to get them to work together to use funding more efficiently. There are no new dollars. We know that. Everyone is dealing with budget restraint… but we expect more efficient use of existing dollars and collaboration.”