Affordable housing group builds itself a new home

Habitat for Humanity Toronto has just broken ground on construction for one more safe, affordable home – their own.

On Tuesday, Neil Hetherington, Habitat Toronto’s CEO, was joined by Mayor David Miller and supporters of the non-profit affordable housing organization to announce construction and unveil the architect’s drawing of their latest project at 155 Bermondsey Rd.

The building, slated for completion in June 2010, is being built by Maple Reinders Constructors.

This 30,000-square-foot lot will serve three purposes: as local Habitat headquarters, the new ReStore East York retail location and a Home Building Factory.

The organization is integrating the three buildings to save on mortgage costs from the buildings they currently lease, so that more money can go towards building homes for low-income families in Toronto.

“Habitat provides hope to those in despair,” Hetherington said. “We want to get each family into a situation where they can live with dignity in a safe, decent and affordable home.”

Habitat’s ReStore retail locations salvage and sell used building materials from demolition sites and renovation projects. They provide charitable receipts for the donation of materials that would have otherwise been sent to the landfill, clean them up, sell them and use that revenue to pay for their administrative costs.

“It’s simple, it’s effective, it’s green and it’s been around for 15 years now across the country,” Hetherington said.

At the launch, mayor Miller gave a personal speech about his time growing up in a small village in the south of England, where “everybody was welcome.”

“Even in that little village, at the earliest age I knew the importance of affordable housing because my friends lived in council housing – which in England is what you call affordable housing,” Miller said.

“Now, Toronto is not a village of 75 people – it’s a large city of 2.7 million. But the same principles apply here. We have to ensure that we’re a city that welcomes everybody, because that’s our greatest strength. We have to work on it every day.”

Miller then donned a blue construction helmet along with several other Habitat supporters and made the ceremonial first dig into the earth.

The city has partnered with Habitat Toronto to help with the building process by waiving fees when possible and helping them to acquire land.

With the help of more than 24,000 volunteers, the organization has already started construction on 86 houses this year, providing homes for about 400 people.