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World Habitat Awards winner Self-Help Housing in the North of England has provided inspiration for a pilot housing project in Toronto, Canada.

Canopy Housing and Giroscope in the UK were joint winners of the 2015 World Habitat Awards for their approaches to tackling empty homes. Our peer exchange in 2016 saw practitioners working in homelessness and empty properties visit the projects to learn about self-help housing. Amongst this group was Sheldon Pollett, a board member of Raising the Roof in Canada.

Raising the Roof identify innovative solutions to prevent homelessness and try to replicate them in local communities. After the peer exchange Sheldon helped to connect them with Canopy Housing. They have now incorporated aspects of Canopy’s work into their own project in Toronto.

The pilot scheme involves the refurbishment of an initial three heritage buildings in the York region of Toronto, to create affordable housing for local people. Building Up, an organisation which provides training and employment in construction to those in need, is working in partnership to carry out the refurbishments. They will also be working with local frontline services to identify those in need of housing and support, including women who have been victims of human trafficking and young people at risk of homelessness.

Rents for the properties will be based on what a person would receive through Ontario Works, the social assistance scheme for those in financial need in the area. This means that monthly rents will be set at around $350-400 per month. These funds will be put back into the project for the development of future homes.

In Canada, there is a lot of existing housing stock with heritage status meaning that local governments own property which they cannot demolish or develop on. Elisa Traficante, Director of Community Initiatives at Raising the Roof, explains, “It’s a really good opportunity for us to propose to support municipalities with this problem by actually investing in this space; creating strong social return on investment and supporting the community and its residents.”

Raising the Roof believe that the idea is scalable across Canada and hope to duplicate the success of Canopy in doing this. Watch this short news clip for more on the project.

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