Toronto Community Housing plans to transfer ownership of some East Toronto homes to Circle Community Land Trust

A severance application is in the works for Toronto Community Housing properties on Walpole Avenue, and also on Kenilworth Avenue. Photo by Alan Shackleton.

By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The City of Toronto has received applications to transfer land ownership of two east end Toronto Community Housing (TCH) sites to a community land trust.

The first application aims to sever the single-family home at 264 Kenilworth Ave. from 50 Norway Ave., a TCH seniors housing apartment.

The severance is to facilitate the transfer of this property to a non-profit housing operator, Circle Community Land Trust.

“We have over 500 single family homes that were transferred last year,” said Circle Community Land Trust CEO Alia Abaya. “These are just the remaining few that weren’t able to be transferred due to severance issues.”

The severance application is required since 264 Kenilworth Ave. and the adjacent 50 Norway Ave., which consists of 43 rental dwelling units, have merged on title due to both properties being owned by TCH.

The same can be seen in a second application which proposes the severance of 16 Walpole Ave. and 32 Walpole Ave. from 44 and 66 Walpole Ave.

As part of TCH’s Tenants First Initiative – an asset management strategy which TCH says has implemented improvements like a more targeted housing portfolio – Circle Community Land Trust will now take responsibility for these properties as they are better equipped to maintain the sites and deliver quality service to tenants, the application says.

“Our vision is to provide exceptional service as a landlord by bringing all the homes into a state of good repair, and by working with our tenants and communities to create a culture that is inclusive, engaged, and where tenants can feel secure in knowing that their homes are now protected and permanently affordable,” said Abaya.

Abaya told Beach Metro Community News that the units will remain geared-to-income as Circle Community’s mission is to protect affordable housing in the City of Toronto.

“We’re not a private landlord. We’re not raising the rent as a result of the transfer,” said Abaya.

She described Circle Community Land Trust as a self-sufficient organization founded with a focus on carrying out its own property management so as to avoid underperformance from third party companies.

“When we met with tenants in the beginning, a lot of the feedback was that if you use a third party property management service, you can’t necessarily guarantee the quality of work,” said Abaya. “Our goal is to provide the best possible experience.”

Although carrying out its own property management, Circle Community Land Trust’s website depicts plans to enter into an agreement with WoodGreen Community Services for “back-office services such as IT and property management software, accounting, payroll, and after-hours emergency response services”.

However, Abaya said that there is currently no connection to the organization apart from WoodGreen CEO Anne Babcock’s role as a founding board member of Circle Community Land Trust – a position she no longer holds.

The timeline to complete the transfers is currently unclear, however, upon approval, Circle Community Land Trust will take over property management and begin “working with tenants to stabilize their homes” by providing necessary repairs as “a lot of them need a lot of work”.

“Of course, repairing over 560 houses takes a huge amount of coordination and planning – but we also know that tenants have been waiting a long time. So, I am really happy to report that things are well underway,” Abaya stated in Circle’s Tenant Newsletter earlier this year.

Although the buildings will undergo repairs under the new management, there will be no demolitions or physical changes to the properties.

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— 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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