By Rebecca Mitchell

From left: Tara Petch, director of partnerships, Habitat HM; Bob Van de Vrande, 2019 RAHB president; Tim Mattioli and Bruce Moran, RAHB members and former HOAP board members; and John Gerrard, CEO, Habitat HM.
From left: Tara Petch, director of partnerships, Habitat HM; Bob Van de Vrande, 2019 RAHB president; Tim Mattioli and Bruce Moran, RAHB members and former HOAP board members; and John Gerrard, CEO, Habitat HM.

As a society hindered by a lack of affordable housing, you would think it would be common practice for home suppliers to work alongside home builders to support a more affordable market. Unfortunately, Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga has seen firsthand that this is not the case.



Home sponsorships and donations from Realtor associations are few and far between, and they rarely result in long-term support. While Habitat HM recognizes the Ontario Realtors Care Foundation, which supports families in need of emergency and permanent housing through charitable organizations, we need continued support in order to build affordable homes.

As a non-profit, we receive a limited amount of funding and therefore must depend on the donations of partners within our affiliate. It only makes sense that Realtor associations would support these community building initiatives as affordable housing directly impacts their ability to sell homes.

During this past summer, the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington stepped up to the plate as a home sponsor for Habitat HM’s 18-townhome Crew-Goetz Landing. RAHB has set themselves apart from other Realtors in several ways. It was their mission from the very beginning to create high standards in the real estate profession, to foster co-operation among members, to offer quality and professional training, and to become involved in real estate issues at the local, provincial and national levels.

RAHB also holds several firsts for real estate associations, including the production of Ontario’s first Multiple Listing Service in 1949.

With the real estate industry pushing for more affordable housing, RAHB looked for answers. In keeping with their history of innovation, RAHB established one of the first affordability programs within the real estate sphere, the Home Ownership Affordability Program (HOAP).

Established in 2004, HOAP’s objective was to meet the needs of low-income families living in Hamilton, Burlington and their surrounding communities. HOAP worked to assist families in acquiring and owning acceptable residential housing. This was achieved by purchasing homes in need of TLC and renovating them for local families. These homes would then become available for families living in subsidized housing who were able to qualify for a mortgage. The family would work with a local Realtor to purchase the home and then that Realtor would donate their commission back into HOAP.

Unfortunately, after 11 homes had been revived and purchased by families, it became apparent that HOAP was no longer sustainable. As home prices rose, the ability to purchase and renovate homes in the Hamilton-Burlington area diminished.

If a Realtor association can’t even afford to purchase affordable housing options, how will future generations purchase homes?

With housing costs rising, the issue of affordable housing for future generations is becoming a real obstacle. Business Insider says millennials face house prices 39 per cent higher than their parents did in the 1980s and 70 per cent higher than their grandparents did in the 1960s. Not only is the modern market severely inflated, the emerging generation has the added financial burden of increased student debts and subsequent interest charges after post-secondary.

Due to such extreme shifts in the housing market, millennials are now seeking more affordable options, such as tiny homes and modular housing.

In partnership with construction students from the Milton School Board, Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga has commenced construction on its first three tiny houses. Two are anticipated to be sold on the open market while the third will be held for deployment as emergency shelter in support of local communities as required. Habitat HM will continue to build tiny homes with other school boards in order to foster social conscience and more affordable housing opportunities.

Habitat HM has also shifted operations to modular housing, partnering with Quality Homes, a custom modular housing builder, to deliver affordable housing faster than ever before. Modular homes can be completed in just under six weeks, which would result in many more homes for the thousands of families in need within our region. Not only is this building method so much faster, it is noticeably cheaper because the homes can be precision-built inside a state-of-the-art factory. Modular housing also generates zero waste and does not require inspections once on site. Construction will begin once build permits have been obtained.

The summer of 2019 saw RAHB walk the talk with a generous donation of over $116,000 to local Habitats. Habitat HM received $38,000, an amount that will directly support affordable housing in Burlington. The association has also participated in a team build day with Habitat HM that saw RAHB strap on their toolbelts and get to work on our 18-home Crew-Goetz site in Burlington.

“The partnership between RAHB and Habitat for Humanity could not be a more perfect fit,” says RAHB. “Both Habitat and RAHB believe in the power of home ownership – especially affordable home ownership. As home prices continue to rise, an organization that aids families to afford a roof over their head will become even more vital. We hope that our donation will not only have an impact today but create a conversation on the necessity of stable and affordable housing in the various communities that we represent.”

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