OWN Housing Committee Tour of 100 Ossington, built by Verdiroc Development Corp.

July 19, 2013
Meeting Minutes:

  • Representing OWN Housing Committee:  Margaret Jarvis, Kate Chung, Sandy Prowse, and Valerie Kent

  • 100 Lower Ossington (just south of Queen St. W.) opened in 2012 and is an “affordable” rental building. 

  • Built by Verdiroc Development Corp., one of the City of Toronto’s “Affordable Housing Champions”.  Verdiroc builds affordable rental and other buildings.  See www.verdiroc.com for more information.

  • We met with Hanita Braun, B. Arch., Director of Project Management, Planning and Development, Verdiroc Development Corp., and Charlotte Braun Zur, Property Manager, Greenwin and the Manager of this building.

  • We met in the spacious and bright second-floor meeting room before touring the building.

  • The land is leased to Verdiroc for 50 years, after which ownership of both the land and building will revert to CAMH.

  • CAMH had put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) and Verdiroc won that.

  • Then the City put out its RFP for private developers willing to build affordable rental units in return for a grant which enables the builder to take a smaller mortgage, and thus to charge lower rents.  Verdiroc also won this RFP.

  • Average rents for the entire building must not exceed 80% of what CMHC declares to be the average rent for the area (definition of “affordable”). There are 179 units.

  • 40% of the units are subsidized: either an external subsidy from TCHC, CMH, LOFT (seniors mental health agency), Montage, AIS (Accommodation, Information and Support for the hearing impaired); or an internal subsidy as part of the City’s affordable rental program (the grant the City gave the builder).

  • Residents may be referred from Nellie’s, Sistering, etc.

  • The main floor facing along Queen St. W. is commercial space: Shoppers Drug Mart, Tim Hortons, TD Bank, and two still to be leased (one may become a fruit market).  The back of the commercial space extends under the building.  Though it is a modern building, it is simple and it fits seamlessly into the Queen St. W. streetscape.  They are making an effort to include retail businesses that residents need and which are missing in the local area.

  • The housing access — the lobby, mail room, and security office — is just around the corner at 100 Lower Ossington, just across the street from the newly re-developed CAMH buildings.  

  • There is no security guard at the door, but there are cameras there and throughout the building, with a monitor in manager’s office.

  • Security: Every resident has a fob programmed to allow them entry only to their own floor and the common areas. This helps residents, many of whom are leaving abuse, to feel secure.

  • The building has bachelor, one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. This kind of building is rare, as most focus on smaller units now.

  • Unit sizes are:   
    • Bachelor – 380 sq feet
    • One-bedroom – 560 sq feet
    • Two-bedroom – 680 sq feet
    • Three-bedroom – 875 to 900 sq feet 

  • The 3-bedroom units have 1-1/2 bathrooms.

  • Some units have balconies and some do not.

  • We visited a one-bedroom, a 2-bedroom and a 3-bedroom.  All were extremely efficient in design.  Every unit had its own “storage room”, so no trekking to a scary basement.  All rooms had good natural light from windows and balcony doors.  The kitchens were on the small side, but they opened onto the living room, which makes for good conversation with family and friends and helps make a small living room feel larger.  The three-bedroom unit had a pantry.

  • At one corner of each floor on alternate floors there is an open “lounge” area with two built-in benches, to encourage residents to socialize.

OWN Members at 100 Lower Ossington (Kate, Sandy & Valerie)
Common space on 2nd floor,
leading out to their private courtyard.
The 2nd floor private courtyard tucked into
the south side of the building
Charlotte Braun Zur, Property Manager, in the courtyard

  • On the other floors there is an enclosed lounge/office/“community room” which can later be used by agency workers/PSWs if needed — flex space. Unfortunately, some are now used for building storage, but that can change.

  • An agency, “Reconnect”, works with the management and helps with social events. For example, a BBQ is being planned.

  • There are about 50 children and teens in the building. There is no daycare because CAMH has one, and Verdiroc is careful not to duplicate what is already in the community. They make an effort to be PART of the community.

  • On the second floor, outside the management office, there is a large lounge, with a door to the corridor where the laundry room is. There are 12 washers and 12 driers, operated by cards, not coins, as a precaution due to the presence of some addicts who might break into coin-operated machines.  A small machine on the wall takes paper money to update the cards. The laundry room is very bright, with lots of windows, and has a small seating area for residents and children waiting for their laundry. 

  • Adjoining the main lounge is the meeting room where we met, and a larger recreation room with kitchenette.  A folding divider allows this room to be used by two groups at once.  There is an entry door from each section of the room to the lobby area, which is also used as a overflow area when there are events. The recreation room can be rented for parties for $15 an hour, which covers the cleaning costs.

  • From the lobby/lounge area there is also access to a pleasant roof garden, bounded by several bachelor and one-bedroom units with private patios. The garden is in the open centre of the U-shaped building.  The smallest units face south and overlook this second-floor roof garden area. 

  • In accordance with the new building code of about six years ago, all common areas and all unit entrance doors are wheelchair accessible. 

  • Note that Verdiroc’s building at 180 Sudbury also meets this new standard. However, their building at 121 Parkway Forest (opposite Fairview Mall) was built earlier, and only the common areas are wheelchair accessible.

  • CAMH has more land and Verdiroc would like to be chosen to build more housing there.

  • Hanita made some other suggestions on ways we might advocate for the building of affordable housing.

  • Hanita reiterated some important facts:

    • Toronto really needs 7500 new affordable housing units per year to meet the backlog and the increasing need.

    • There is currently a backlog of 70,000 units.

    • There are between 150,000 and 170,000 people on the City of Toronto’s Affordable Housing Waiting List.

    • The Federal Government has budgeted $250 million a year for the next five years for affordable housing. This just a drop in the bucket, but it is crucial to have the Province match it.  Half this money will come to Ontario, and half of that will come to the City of Toronto. This will be $62.5 million for Toronto housing, but only if the Province matches it. Otherwise, we get nothing.

    • With the Province’s matching funds, the City would get $125 million.  The average grant per housing project is $20 million. This means only six new buildings (approximately 1000 new units) get built or repaired per year. But it’s better than nothing, and better than what we now have.

  • We asked Hanita if she would be willing to meet with OWN at a future date and to act as a resource for OWN Housing Committee. She said she was happy to do that, as the city and the builders of affordable housing need knowledgeable affordable housing advocates.

  • As we were leaving, they gave us application forms and invited OWN members to consider applying to this building as it is brand new, affordable and their wait list is not that long as yet.  It is a beautiful new building, but may not be affordable enough for some.
    Also see their Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/100-Lower-Ossington-Avenue-Rental-Apartments/201144469950122
    Rents:  Bachelor $822, 1 Bedroom $979, 2 Bedroom $1,161, 3 Bedroom $1,374.  Confirm all prices and the wait list by contacting them.

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Last updated: August 26, 2013