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Not-for-profit group helps people achieve home-ownership despite record prices

A Toronto not-for-profit group is making it their mission to help more people achieve home-ownership, despite a red hot market that’s seen prices skyrocket.

“It was off the table for me, I was convinced, for at least 10 to 15 years,” says Ricardo Cummings, who took a massive pay cut when he switched careers, forcing him to give up his condo.

But his dreams of getting back into the housing market were realized in just two years, when he bought a one-bedroom condo at Danforth and Eglinton for $220,000. “Sometimes I pinch myself,” he says. “I think, ‘this is too good.’ ”

Cummings was able to make the purchase with the help of Options for Homes, a not-for-profit that sells condominiums almost at-cost.

“We’re the largest developer you’ve probably never heard of,” says CEO Heather Tremain. “We’re providing some of the lowest price points in the GTA.”

Tremain says her organization, in operation for nearly 22 years, helps people with incomes as low as $30,000 a year, offering down payment loans without interest.

“They have to put 5 per cent down on their units and we provide a significant down payment,” she explains. “Depending on the project it can be 13 per cent to 15 per cent. They pay that back with appreciation when the unit is sold.”

The condos are built by Deltera, a member of Tridel home builders, and Options keeps costs low by eliminating amenities like pools and gyms.

So, what’s the catch?

“There isn’t a catch. We’re definitely different than your conventional developer,” says Tremain. “We want to help people become homeowners, it’s as simple as that.”

“It’s a real non-profit,” confirms City Councillor Ana Bailao, who also chairs the city’s affordable housing committee. “They work with the development industry and different levels of government to produce affordable home-ownership to our residents.”

The City of Toronto partnered with Options for Homes on two condos at Keele and Dundas, providing funding assistance for down payments.

Tremain says in recent years, the demand has grown significantly, and they’ve seen a change in demographics. “Historically, we served the low-to moderate-income group,” says Tremain. “Now, we’re finding there is a significant number of people who historically were middle-class and now can’t get into the market. So we’re trying to serve both.”

Anyone can purchase a home from Options, and there is no income cap for purchasers – although the recommended range is $30-$70,000 a year. Options does not loan to investors, and requires purchasers to live in the unit, or pay back their loan before renting.