Space still available for sisters' housing

By 
  • June 27, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - A non-profit group of Toronto-based religious sisters is looking to fill more than a dozen spots for its long-awaited and controversial affordable housing project.

There are 17 spots left for the project being run by 40 Toronto-based women religious congregations that is expected to be ready for occupancy next spring.

The project, which is known as the Women’s Religious Projects Neighbourhood Housing or WRP, began nine years ago when the sisters raised $2 million with the goal of building affordable housing for economically disadvantaged working families by the Jubilee year back in 2000.

“This project is one of hope and breaking the cycle of poverty,” said WRP spokesperson Sr. Jeanine Scarfone.

Last year, 128,570 Toronto families were on the waiting list for social housing. The average wait for a one-bedroom subsidized apartment was from seven to 10 years.

WRP partnered with Habitat for Humanity, which agreed to build the homes, and provide home ownership support and education.

The project will have a mix of 60 affordable and market value homes in the southeast corner of Toronto at Lawrence Avenue and Manse Road. Thirty-eight of the homes will be managed by WRP Neighborhood Housing, 16 by Habitat for Humanity and the rest will be sold at market value by the Daniels Corporation. It had originally been planned as a neighbourhood of 119 homes.

The WRP neighbourhood will house three- and four-bedroom, semi-detached units at a cost of $125,000 to $155,000.

Scarfone said the sisters are encouraging families to apply by attending a Habitat for Humanity information session.

According to Barbara Wilson, the project’s liaison with Habitat, 21 families have already been approved by the project’s board of directors and will likely approve more than the 38 spots, meaning there will be between five to 10 families on a waiting list.

The search for new homeowners will continue until the end of July and the selection process is expected to finish by the end of the summer, Wilson said. More than 2,000 people have attended information sessions for Habitat and WRP projects since last year, she added.

The WRP project had been plagued by bureaucratic delay and vocal opposition from a neighbourhood association for years.

Don York, chairperson of the Manse Valley Community Association, said he wasn’t sure if those who are moving into the disputed area will be welcomed by the neighbourhood. York said his group had been opposing the construction on environmental grounds and not because it is an affordable housing project, as many of its critics have charged.

“Directly south of us is one of the largest concentrations of chemical industries in city of Toronto,” York said. “We needed the trees to keep air quality at a satisfactory level. Now, they will move another 60 families and put their health at risk.”

Steven Heuchert, manager of development planning at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, said the project is not on land deemed to be city-protected green space.

The site is being prepared for construction and the land is being cleared, with all of the brush and some trees being taken down, said Scarfone. Sewer construction will take place next, she said.

 

How to apply

Here is how you can apply for housing with the Women’s Religious Project:

  • Family attends an information session;
  • Family mails in application. Unlike Habitat for Humanity projects, there is no credit report required;
  • Committee reviews application;
  • Police record check and mortgage pre-approval;
  • Home visit by committee members;
  • Approval by the project’s family selection committee;
  • Approval by board of directors.

Income criteria:

  • The maximum family income depends upon the family size.
    (For example, a family of three has a maximum family income of $45,000 before taxes or deductions. The maximum for a a family of eight is $70,000.)

Income requirements include:

  • employment income,
  • disability or child tax benefits (welfare and employment insurance are not considered),
  • a clean credit rating,
  • no large debt
  • and three years of work and residency in Canada.

More information is available at www.wrphousing.org.

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