Habitat for Humanity to build 40 affordable housing units on donated land in Whitby

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Published June 27, 2024 at 1:05 pm

The corner of Brock and Dundas in Downtown Whitby. via Google Maps.

Whitby has donated two large parcels of land to Habitat for Humanity to allow the construction of 40 affordable housing units.

The town announced the donation of two lots in the area between Colbourne Street on the north and Gilbert Street to the south. The lots are bordered by Peel Street on the west and Reynolds Street on the east.

Donated lots Whitby

The neighbourhood sits in the centre of town just southwest of the Dundas Street and Garden Street intersection downtown. It’s largely home to detached houses and an apartment building. There are numerous businesses and a couple of schools within a few blocks.

Whitby estimated the lots’ value at around $5.9 million. Both are now vacant and owned entirely by the town. Planning staff designated the land as surplus in a recent report which outlines the agreement with Habitat for Humanity.

This is the first Habitat project in Whitby since Habitat GTA started operating in Durham Region four years ago. Habitat for Humanity is an American-based non-governmental organization based in Americus, Georgia. It focuses on building and improving homes for low-income families. They now build homes in 70 countries.

Habitat homes typically sell at  40 to 70 per cent below market price and do not require down payments. The resulting mortgages are also geared to income so the homeowner pays no more than 32 per cent of their income on the house.

This is slightly above the recommended 30 per cent. However, nearly half of Canadians already exceed this recommendation with 15 per cent handing over half their monthly income.

The donation isn’t a straight exchange, however. Habitat will pay the town about $3 million for the properties with the discount treated as a forgivable loan if they get the houses built. In turn, Whitby is giving Habitat a $3 million grant from their share of the federally funded Housing Accelerator Fund.

By 2025, they will contain 40 units of various sizes, along with parking and outdoor spaces. Additionally, the more southern Dunlop Site will feature an open community space for residents. Town council unanimously approved the donation in their last meeting on June 27.

The move will assist the town in reaching its commitment to the province to build 18,000 new units by 2031. Toward the end of 2022, the Ontario government assigned housing goals for each major municipality in the province with a promise of funding if those goals are met.

The project uses “housing start” data from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation to judge progress. Several communities, including Ajax and Clarington, have criticized the use of this data as “faulty” and not truly representative of their progress after losing out on this funding.

Whitby also missed out last year as they only reached 60 per cent of their 2023 target. So far in 2024, they’ve reached only 11 per cent of their 1,500 annual goal according to the latest provincial report from June 12.

Mayor Elizabeth Roy was “pleased” with the project’s approval which she said, “has made it a priority to increase the amount of housing available in our community, including housing that is attainable and affordable.” The town and Habitat have agreed to keep the units affordable for at least 25 years. 

“Organizations like Habitat for Humanity GTA play a crucial role in helping us achieve these goals,” she continued, “By supporting this initiative, we are not only creating more homes but also fostering a stronger, more inclusive Whitby where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”

 

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