A recent forgivable loan from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) will ensure that residents of the Homewood Mansions near Carlton and Jarvis streets can continue to live in safe buildings.
The CMHC has passed down $762,000 in funding for the 67-unit rental apartment at 1 Homewood Ave. and $528,000 for a 44-unit rooming house at 7 and 9 Homewood Ave. The money is part of an initiative to help ensure that Toronto maintains a certain number of affordable housing units.
"Part of the review we do before giving out funding is to determine if, in fact, the tenants are lower-income earners and if, in fact, the rents are kept below a certain level," said CMHC spokesperson Mark Salerno. "We want to ensure that the buildings remain safe to live in and that we retain an affordable housing stock in the city."
While the funding comes in the form of a loan, Salerno said that the CMHC will forgive the loan provided certain conditions are met. First, the money must be used for repairs and maintenance to keep the building safe. Second, the landlord must keep rents at an affordable level.
"The system is predicated on the landlord agreeing to place a ceiling on the rent after the repairs," he said. "It's deemed fully forgivable over a period, so they have to earn that forgiveness. Over that given period, if the landlord decides to put the rent up above the agreed level, they have to pay back a prorated amount of the loan."
The money for the Homewood Mansions has been used to redo plumbing and electrical infrastructure in the buildings, as well as some more visible renovations.
"(Tenants) have new kitchens, new bathrooms, everything's new," said Homewood Mansions co-owner Mary Campisi. "With things like the plumbing and electrical, it was important to get everything up to safety code, and before it wasn't. It's an ongoing thing where we want to keep these buildings safe for our tenants."
The funding dollars are especially welcome since, with landlords of lower-income housing developments taking in less in terms of rent dollars, repair and maintenance costs often must come out of the developers' pockets. In other cases, landlords will raise rent to cover the cost of such work.
"It's important because we can make sure everything is up to par without having to take money from tenants in our building," Campisi said. "Some of them would have a hard time making ends meet if we raised the rent."
In addition to the Homewood Mansions, the CMHC also gave forgivable loans to rental apartments in North York and Bloor West Village. The Homewood Mansions were by far the largest of the buildings and received the bulk of the $1.6 million in total funding doled out by the CMHC at the end of May.
"Our main concern is when some buildings are in a poor state of repair or when there are (safety) code deficiencies," Salerno said. "It's an issue of life safety and a way to help both the landlords and the tenants."