Toronto Loft Conversions

Toronto Loft Conversions

I know classic brick and beam lofts! From warehouses to factories to churches, Laurin will help you find your perfect new loft.

Modern Toronto Lofts

Modern Toronto Lofts

Not just converted lofts, I can help you find the latest cool and modern space. There are tons of new urban spaces across the city.

Unique Toronto Homes

Unique Toronto Homes

More than just lofts, I can also help you find that perfect house. From the latest architectural marvel to a piece of our Victorian past, the best and most creative spaces abound.

Condos in Toronto

Condos in Toronto

I started off selling mainly condos, helping first time buyers get a foothold in the Toronto real estate market. Now working with investors and helping empty nesters find that perfect luxury suite.

Toronto Real Estate

Toronto Real Estate

For all of your Toronto real estate needs, contact Laurin. I am dedicated to helping you find that perfect and unique new home to call your own.


Taking the no-frills route to home ownership

Mike Labbé’s Options for Homes is on target to build its 2,000th low-income condo unit, with more on the horizon

Derek Raymaker – Globe and Mail

For the past several months, dozens of people with limited incomes have dropped in to a derelict Canadian Tire store on Keele Street in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood.

Twice a day every Saturday, they come in to hear about the two 300-suite condo buildings, along with a series of townhouses, that will begin construction on the site this fall. The first building is about 85% sold out.

At the end of the information session, these potential buyers will be asked to pay $100 if they want to reserve a unit. At that point, they officially become developers, part of a non-profit co-operative building The Village By High Park.

This affordable housing model focusing on home ownership has been put to the test several times since 1994 by Options For Homes. The non-profit firm gets the projects rolling as a consulting firm by securing the site and builder and starting the co-operative. When The Village By High Park is completed, Options will have developed 2,000 units of titled property, most of which is in the hands of people who thought they’d never own a property.

Options For Homes president Mike Labbé started his career as an urban and environmental planner before focusing on running non-profit housing projects on the rental side. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that he realized that making home ownership affordable was the only way to build stronger neighbourhoods.

“When you build housing, you need to see it as a community resource, not just a resource for the people who will be living in the house,” he said.

As government funding for affordable rental housing dried up in the late 1990s, Mr. Labbé poured his considerable energy into creating a home ownership model that could allow buyers with annual incomes as low as $20,000 to purchase a condo.

The model is based on two things: keeping building costs and extra suite finishes to a minimum; and providing a down-payment loan to qualified buyers based on the difference between the real cost of construction and the market value. This loan is only repayable when the buyer sells the suite.

For example, in the case of The Village By High Park, construction costs have been established at $250 a square foot, but the market value is set at $290 a square foot. The $40 difference is set aside as a down-payment loan for buyers who qualify.

“We step in [with the down-payment loan] in much the same way as some parents do when they loan their children money for a down payment,” Mr. Labbé said. “This way everybody walks in with a 13% down payment.”

It is conceivable that qualified buyers can finance the purchase of an Options suite solely on the down-payment loan, but “practically, the lenders will want them to put 5% down on their own,” he said.

“The two things that are the biggest challenges is that you have to have an income and not have many debts,” said Mr. Labbé, adding that most lenders are willing to work closely with potential buyers to help them manage their debt in order to qualify for a mortgage.

Current cost prices for the available suites at The Village By High Park range from $123,460 for a studio to $214,000 for a two-bedroom. The building is located in a neighbourhood with a sketchy history but with a rapidly improving reputation.

You won’t find a lot of fancy features, like granite countertops, or even appliances. And Mr. Labbé keeps a tight lid on marketing costs, preferring to advertise through flyers and on the TTC and staying away from expensive model suites and presentation centres. He estimates these measures have cut down the price of suites at The Village by $2,000 a unit.

Because it seeks out discounted building sites, Options For Homes has often been the first builder in a neighbourhood. Its first three buildings went up in the area around Parliament and Mill Streets. That was in 1997, six years before the neighbouring Gooderham & Worts Distillery began its transformation into what is now one of the city premier arts districts.

The one thing Mr. Labbé regrets the most is that so much time has been wasted, by planners, builders and government bureaucracies, on building affordable rental housing, which he said has produced income segregation of neighbourhoods that lead to so many social and crime problems.

“If we can use this model to expand ownership to troubled neighbourhoods, it will work against this trend,” he said. “It has to be done through the resource of ownership, because the government doesn’t have enough money.”


Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information

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