25 Leonard Avenue is located in Toronto's Kensington Market neighbourhood. With many social service agencies (foodbanks, drop-in centers, community health organizations) located within walking distance, this building is ideally suited to support the needs of those who have been homeless.
Built in 1960, the former doctor's office building has 28,000 square feet suitable for conversion to fifty-one compact apartments. In December of 2001, 25 Leonard Avenue was fully occupied by tenants who had previously been homeless or in the shelter system, and has been filled to capacity since that time.
St. Clare's has established partnerships with several local agencies that run shelters for people who are homeless. These agencies refer tenants who can maintain independent living to 25 Leonard. Tenants who are on welfare pay the shelter component of their cheque. Tenants who work pay 30% of their income. The cost of 25 Leonard Avenue are kept low by having a simple administrative structure, with very few costs built in outside those necessary for running the building. St. Clare's hired a Community Development Worker to help ensure that residents maintain their housing and to bring programming into the building. This could include finance management, health seminars, addiction counselling and other events identified by the residents, referring agencies, and St. Clare's.Development of 25 Leonard Avenue: How it All Happened
To finance 25 Leonard, a key first step was to secure a $50,000 line of credit with a credit union. This gave the society a way to make refundable deposits and thereby participate in bidding on properties despite limited cash assets.
Homegrown Solutions (an initiative of Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, Canadian Home Builders' Association, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation that unfortunately ended in 2002) and an additional $25,000 from the Mayor's Homeless Initiative Fund provided start-up funding to help with incorporation. Initial pre-development costs, project technical consultants and lawyers deferred their fees to help reduce initial cash requirements.
After the property was acquired and a concrete goal established, it was possible to pursue other funding sources. With its charitable status in place, $135,000 was raised, primarily from foundations. Grant funding was secured from a variety of programs, including $2.5 million from the federal program Supporting Community Partnerships Initiative (SCPI), $395,000 in grants and waived fees from the City of Toronto Let's Build Program, and GST and PST rebates.
In addition to the funding support, a rent supplement commitment was secured which allowed the project to charge market rents ($775 at the time) while tenants only pay the Ontario Works single shelter rate. This allowed the building to carry a $2 million mortgage.25 Leonard Avenue Phase 2
In 2004 St. Clare's received funding to add two more storeys to 25 Leonard Avenue. This phase added 26 bachelor apartments to the building, providing inexpensive, permanent housing for 26 more people who were homeless or living in shelters. These people are able to live independently, but had previously been unable to secure affordable housing.
The new self-contained units have their own bathroom and kitchen and are a cost-effective way to provide appropriate housing for people who are homeless.
The kitchen includes a 20" stove, a 22" refrigerator and a built-in combination table/counter. The unit has a bulkhead on 2 sides that provides overhead in-suite storage for the residents. The units face onto a garden space which extends the use of the apartments.
The frames for the apartments were manufactured off-site and lifted into place at the end of September 2005. Using manufactured components is one of the innovative aspects of the project.
The new apartments were occupied in March 2006.