Photo courtesy of John van Nostrand

Architect seeks church partners to shelter homeless in tiny homes

  • January 12, 2022

Toronto architect and planner John van Nostrand has over his 40-year career built tiny home communities around the world and is hoping something similar can be brought to Toronto to house the city’s homeless.

Among the partners van Nostrand hopes to bring on board is the Archdiocese of Toronto and other church communities.

The project would be similar to one the Halifax-Yarmouth archdiocese has taken on this year where parishes have offered church properties as sites for such emergency shelters. The archdiocese raised more than $335,000 to build 20 shelters on church properties.

“I admire what the (Halifax-Yarmouth archdiocese) is doing, and I don’t think it’s that much more difficult to do it here,” said van Nostrand. “If the Catholic Church could grab onto this, it would be great.”

Van Nostrand has submitted a proposal to the City of Toronto to build what’s called Two-Steps-Home Housing Clusters as a more cost-effective alternative to hotels, shelters and encampments. He has proposed housing clusters of up to 12 small housing units capable of accommodating singles, couples and small families who are currently living on the street, in encampments or in overcrowded shelters. 

At 8 by 13 feet, the units are designed to fit within an existing parking space and unlike other housing developments that are built as final units, these can be combined to creature larger households or store belongings for residents.  With building partners already on board, each unit will be equipped with ventilation, a door, two windows, water storage, lighting, an electric outlet, baseboard heater and a bed.

Singles or couples would have access to 2-3 separate toilets, drinking water, wash basins and showers, housed in two rental trailers that will be re-serviced on a regular basis.

The Archdiocese of Toronto is interested in hearing more of van Nostrand’s proposal. Neil MacCarthy, director of public relations and communications, says if there is a way to help meet the need in Toronto where many don’t have a place to call home, then that’s a conversation worth having.

“In a place like Toronto where there is huge population, affordable housing is a very critical issue for so many,” said MacCarthy. “It’s becoming more and more challenging for people to be able to afford to live in many of the large cities in our country, not just Toronto, but the cost of living in Toronto is particularly challenging for many people. Alternatives and opportunities to address the need is certainly something that we should all be looking at. It is certainly part of our call is as Catholics to be looking at these issues as well.”

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