Seema Sarda, Director of Family Partnerships for Habitat for Humanity GTA, knows all too well that people, pretty much across the board, are struggling to afford the cost of housing.
Sarda highlights the story of Donna and Bradley — their last names have been withheld in the interest of anonymity — noting that they exemplify a housing circumstance that is common across the GTA.
“Donna is a healthcare worker while Bradley works as a teacher. They thought they were never going to be able to afford a home in Toronto. Rents kept rising, and they were never in a position to save for a downpayment,” Sarda tells STOREYS.
She adds that it’s people like Donna and Bradley that prompted Habitat GTA to create HomeStart.
According to a press release from the organization, HomeStart is a “unique, affordable homeownership option” being offered to individuals and couples hoping to settle down in the GTA. The first-of-its-kind program deviates from Habitat GTA’s long-standing mandate, which, until now, has centred around providing affordable home ownership for families specifically.
In order to tap into this newly-minted program — it will see selected individuals and couples move into Nørdic, an up-and-coming 12-storey, 437-unit condo development in North York by Collecdev — applicants must have a total household income in the range of $90K to $130K.
“We know that there are many who are in this category but unable to afford a home in the conventional market due to the challenging real estate environment,” says Sarda.
“A recent study by the National Bank of Canada shows it now takes an annual household income of more than $170K to afford a condo in the city of Toronto.”
Sarda also clarifies that Nørdic will include four units (two one-bedroom units, as well as two one-bedroom units plus den) available for individuals and couples. As well, five two-bedroom units have been prioritized for “smaller families” (characterized as families with a child under the age of 16).
“We also have a three-bedroom unit exclusively for a black family,” notes Sarda.
“We do expect that many future Habitat communities will include the HomeStart program to offer more affordable opportunities for individuals and couples struggling to start their homeownership journey.”
Sarda also speaks to the fact that Habitat homes do not require a down payment. She says this aspect is “exceptionally important” for young people who are struggling to save for a downpayment.
“As well, due to our unique mortgage model, the mortgage required for these units will be significantly less than if the units were purchased conventionally, meaning that monthly payments will be affordable,” Sarda says.
“Our program initially sets monthly shelter costs (mortgage payment, condo fees, property tax, insurance), at 32% of gross household income which means that homeowners still have the means to afford other needs and save.”
Habitat GTA CEO Ene Underwood additionally underscores that the HomeStart program, going forward, could be a solution for early career professionals, as well as young couples wanting to tap into the GTA’s real estate market.
“We recognize that the housing affordability crisis isn’t just having a major negative impact on families with children, but also individuals, couples, and young people in particular who increasingly find themselves priced out of the GTA and are forced to make unfair lifestyle choices, or to leave,” says Underwood.