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Heritage homes become homeless housing in York Region

Last Updated Aug 3, 2017 at 4:01 pm EST

An organization that provides long-term solutions for Canada’s homeless population may have found a practical use for the hundreds of century homes left abandoned across the GTA.

Raising the Roof’s “Reside” program is hoping to give the properties new life while also providing affordable housing for those struggling to find a permanent place to live.

“I see potential. I think you have to see beyond the boards on the windows,” said Michael Braithwaite, CEO of Raising the Roof. “There’s thousands of these across Canada. It’s very scalable.”

The houses are all in different stages of disrepair. The search is on now for the perfect five homes to take part in the pilot project.

“We have a number of vacant homes in Markham. So I think if we have the partner that’s willing to put the work in to renovate and restore the house and then we can put a tenant in, I think it’s a win-win for both parties,” said Markham Ward 4 councillor Karen Rea.

The hope is that developers, government and local municipalities and organizations like the Toronto Region Conservation Authority will donate the properties or provide long-term lease agreements for the buildings at a price of just $1 for 10 to 20 years. The buildings could then be renovated and managed by non-profit organizations.

“Why not invest a little bit of money in those and use it for a social purpose and also maintain the asset and make everyone happy?” asks Braithwaite.

The project wouldn’t only provide affordable housing – it would also create work for vulnerable young people. Project organizers are hoping to put together a crew of marginalized unemployed youth to carry out the renovations.

“There’s a group called ‘Building Up’ – an amazing group that would come in, they’d hire youth to work with their contractors to do the renos. So you’re doing two things with that one project,” said Braithwaite.

The current plan involves identifying five houses somewhere in the GTA and getting renovation work started on at least one of the homes in the near future. The ultimate goal is to have the first group of residents move in by the spring.

Browse the photo gallery below for a look at two of homes under consideration for the project.