Sprott Foundation’s $4-million donation supports affordable seniors’ housing project by WoodGreen on Danforth Avenue

Juliana Sprott, of the Sprott Foundation, paints over the UN portion of the UNMET Needs campaign sign during a news conference on April 13 at 60 Bowden St. Photo by Amarachi Amadike.

By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WoodGreen Community Services announced a $4 million donation by the Sprott Foundation at a press conference on Thursday, April 13.

The donation is the largest in WoodGreen’s history for a single private donor.

The conference announcing the donation took place on the site of WoodGreen’s latest seniors housing project at 60 Bowden St, on the corner of Danforth Avenue a block east of Broadview Avenue. WoodGreen plans to integrate an eight-storey building into the existing Danforth Church at the site, creating 50 new affordable housing units for seniors to the area.

This brings WoodGreen one step closer to its goal of creating 3,000 affordable units for seniors in Toronto within the decade.

The Sprott Foundation’s donation serves as an investment to the Bowden Street building as the WoodGreen Foundation kicks off the fundraising phase of its UNMET Needs campaign.

“I am extremely grateful for the work of WoodGreen Community Services,” said Sprott Foundation Chief Giving Officer Juliana Sprott at Thursday’s press conference.

“They have shown that they have the experience, depth and breadth of services to address the multiplicity of unmet needs in the city.”

This artist’s image shows the eight-storey addition to the back of Danforth Church at the southwest corner of Bowden Street and Danforth Avenue.

Although thrilled about the new collaboration with WoodGreen, as well as the opportunity to continue her family’s work of addressing hunger and homelessness in Canada, Sprott told those in attendance that she was conflicted about the project due to the growing levels of urgency needed to confront Toronto’s unmet needs.

“It’s a travesty that so many seniors are falling into poverty and that the need even exists for this affordable housing complex,” said Sprott.

Records show that there are currently about 10,000 homeless people in Toronto with an affordable housing waitlist of 80,000 showing little signs of reducing. Many can expect to wait as much as 10 years before getting a placement.

“The scope and scale of unmet needs is extraordinarily concerning,” said Bill MacKinnon, Chair of the WoodGreen Foundation board of Directors. “It’s a challenge that the government alone cannot meet. Each community has to be involved.”

This concern was reflected by the Sprott Foundation Board of Directors who wasted no time delegating the funding for the donation when approached by WoodGreen.

“It was one of the quickest decisions the board has ever made,” said Sprott. “There’s usually a lot of back and forth, but not with this [UNMET Needs] donation request.”

She said that she hopes the donation inspires others to do the same as WoodGreen continues its quest to raise $25 million to tackle the city’s affordability crisis.

Affordable housing development heavily relies on the support of all levels of government.

Among those attending Thursday’s news conference was Toronto-Danforth MP Julia Dabrusin.  The Bowden Street project received a $19.8 million investment under Phase Two of the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI), which is delivered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) through the National Housing Strategy.

Although Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher was unable to attend the news conference on Thursday, she was acknowledged for her efforts by WoodGreen President and CEO Anne Babcock.

“Paula has been a strong advocate for affordable housing and her dedication has made a significant difference in the lives of many,” said Babcock. “Thanks to Paula’s efforts, many seniors who are struggling to find affordable and safe housing will now have a comfortable and welcoming place to call home.”

The building application for 60 Bowden St. is currently with the City of Toronto pending approval. The project is supported by the city’s Concept 2 Keys priority development program and Construction, which will take about 12 months, is expected to begin later this year.

For more information and community updates on the 60 Bowden St. development plan, please visit https://www.woodgreen.org/welcome-to-60-bowden-st

Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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