Your safety, as well as staff’s, are top of mind. We are keeping up to date with public health guidance and will make sure all activities, including the vote, follow public health guidelines. 

We’ve shifted to having one-on-one conversations and we’re putting any information you need to make an informed decision on our website. If you don’t have access to the internet, a staff person will bring the information to you. We also will also provide a virtual way to attend the meeting.

As a supportive housing provider, Houselink is an essential service and because of the pandemic, governments are putting more attention and money to address the issue of homelessness. There are opportunities that are coming forward that Mainstay and Houselink, together, are better positioned to take advantage of. Addressing homelessness as a stronger organization is a huge reason why we want to come together!

Another reason to press forward is that it has now been a full year since the Board went public with the proposal to become one organization. Both organizations need clarity and certainty on how they are going forward so we can plan for the future.

Participants / tenants of both organizations will vote on whether Houselink and Mainstay join together. 

For Houselink, only members can participate in the upcoming vote. 

Refer to the “What does it mean to be a member of Houselink” and the How do I become a member” questions for more information.

Being a member of Houselink and part of our governance structure is an important responsibility. You are eligible to be a member if you support Houselink’s mission and values. 

Only members are allowed to vote at corporate business meetings (as per the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act).

In order to be a member, regular participants of Houselink services (that is, being a tenant or making regular and ongoing use of a service) must apply annually for membership. 

Annually means that membership starts the day after the last AGM (Annual General Meeting) to the end of the next one. Currently, anyone who applied for membership after October 2, 2020 is now a voting member.

This Membership Policy came into effect in 2015 when the Membership of Houselink introduced a new governance structure.  

The deadline to become a voting Member is Friday, October 23rd 2020. 

If you have any questions, or to confirm your status as a voting Member of Houselink, please call Candice at 437-246-3587 or candicest@houselink.on.ca.  

If you wish to vote on the upcoming decision regarding Mainstay, there are three things you need to do:

  1. Make sure you support Houselink’s mission and vision.
  2. Make sure you check out all the information on this website about why the Board believes the proposal to join with Mainstay strongly supports our mission. If you have questions, you can talk to Candice Stoute.
  3. Apply to become a member by contacting Candice Stoute by October 23 at 437-246-3587 or candicest@houselink.on.ca.

Houselink and Mainstay are two of the largest supportive housing providers in Toronto. We’ve worked together for years. They are a perfect partner for us because we are similar in many ways.

  • We have the same mission to provide housing and supports for those in need.
  • We share the same values.
  • Tenants in both our organizations sit on the board and have a say in decisions.
  • We have similar tenants.
  • Many of our buildings are in the same neighbourhoods.
  • We have the same funders.

Mainstay also provides many supports for their tenants, both themselves and by agency partners who work closely with Mainstay. They also have a strong mandate to develop more properties. Our goal is to take what each of us does best and create a stronger organization.

If you want to learn more about them, visit www.mainstay.ca.

For us at Houselink, Mainstay is by far the organization that is the most closely aligned with our goals of housing renewal and expansion.  That’s one of their complementary strengths. They have been positioning themselves to be the lead organization to develop supportive housing in Toronto and have made great strides in that direction. They have:

  • Created a 10-year housing development plan with a target of creating 1,200 units over the next 10 years.
  • Created a $3.5 million development fund that will expand to $25 million in 7 years.
  • Hired a Director of Real Estate and Development to lead the renewal and expansion activity. This role will also establish a project team to oversee development projects.

Some of you may remember that we spent 4 years trying to convert 30 shared housing units into self-contained, accessible units at our Danforth site. It takes years to plan a development and they don’t always go forward. Sharing development capacity to support all the planning and implementation work is a key goal of joining together!

There are exciting opportunities that could be available to us if we are of a size that we could competitively bid on them. One of these opportunities is called Housing Now at the City. Mainstay was already been shortlisted this past fall for one of these sites. Houselink on its own would not be able to access these lands.

Health and non-profit housing have changed a lot and we can’t get left behind. For us at Houselink, there are many things that impact us, such as:

  • We own housing for which the funding is ending over the next 10 years. We need to take a much more business approach to protect the housing we have. This means trying to do things more efficiently.
  • We lease housing for which the leases are ending, as well as housing that are very vulnerable to market conditions like being turned to condominiums. Both Mainstay and Houselink want to build housing we own and operate so we are not as dependent on for-profit landlords. 
  • 26% of our housing stock is shared and lacks accessibility. This is stock that we bought in the early 80’s. It was at a time when many people were leaving psychiatric wards and cramped rooming houses were the only option. Today we know that most people prefer their own apartment, and by joining together, we will have the ability to create new, self-contained units.
  • Only 2 of our 22 properties has an elevator and our tenants are aging and need accessible units.
  • The funding and other resources, like government owned land that is being made available to address homelessness, is very competitive! Size and capacity are going to matter – especially in a city like Toronto. Together, we’ll be of a size and have more capacity that will allow us to get the funding we need to create housing in a big city – and build housing that anyone would love to live in.
  • The health sector that we work in is becoming more and more integrated. It means that we have much less say and independence. Being a larger size will give us more control over our decisions. We can create our own future, without being told we have to integrate with someone we don’t know as well as Mainstay.

First, make sure you read the section “Why Mainstay and not another organization?” so you understand the importance of Mainstay’s increasing development capacity. 

Houselink has 113 shared housing units that we bought or built in the 80’s at a time when individuals with persistent mental health challenges had been living in hospital wards or squalid rooming houses.

Since 2011, Houselink has had a strategic goal to convert our shared housing to self-contained. Today, only 6% of those on our collective waiting list are willing to consider shared housing, and almost 60% refuse the offer when they are referred to one. Can you imagine that kind of refusal rate during a record housing crisis?  In addition, none of them are licensed as rooming houses and none of them are accessible.

Most of these homes are losing their operational subsidy because they were attached to 35-year mortgages. As a result, Houselink is going to lose thousands of dollars in revenue if we don’t do something urgently with these homes.

We need to act quickly to financially sustain these homes and its in everyone’s best interest that we convert them to accessible, self-contained units like we had tried with our Danforth project!

First, make sure you read the section “Why Mainstay and not another organization?” so you understand the importance of Mainstay’s increasing development capacity. 

First some history. The reason why we are leasing these properties is because the City gave capital dollars to a for-profit developer to rent the properties back to us for 25 years. The reason why the City gave it to them and not us, is because they did not believe we had the capacity to own and operate our own housing.  

At Coxwell, the lease started in 2004 so we have until 2029. 

At Gerrard, the lease started in 2010 so we have until 2035.

3 months prior to the end of those leases, we have committed to the property owner that Houselink will offer you a unit in another Houselink location. If a unit because vacant, we cannot fill it.  If you decide to stay in the unit, you may be required to start paying market rent.

Right now we have very few empty self-contained apartments. Before those leases are up, we will need to expand our portfolio. Joining with Mainstay will give us the boost we need.

Also, in the future, we want the City to trust us with these capital funds so that the affordable housing we create is affordable forever. If we are a bigger organization that has more capacity, we’ll be able to do that!

First, make sure you read the section “Why Mainstay and not another organization?” so you understand the importance of Mainstay’s increasing development capacity. 

Houselink currently has 146 rent supplements in the private sector in which we lease the unit and head-lease to you. We have been losing units in the private sector because the vacancy rate has been at an all-time low over the past few years. Unfortunately, some for-profit landlords also openly discriminate against individuals living with serious mental health challenges.

We are also losing units as rental units are converted into condos. We have a property at 812/814 Broadview where we suspect that the owner is holding the property for development potential. We rent 45 units there and any day now we could get a notice of eviction. It will be difficult to find that many units in the private sector if that happens. We expect that we will have to go to areas of the City in which transit is low and amenities like grocery stores are farther away.

Joining with Mainstay and developing properties that we own and operate will allow us to use those rent supplements in our own properties. Houselink has a small example of this approach at 46 Delaware, a building we own without any government funding other than the rent supplement revenue.  

The other advantage is that when we are the landlord, we always take a problem-solving approach if you go into arrears or have other problems taking care of your tenant obligations. That’s not often the case in the for-profit sector.

Congratulations! You’re living in exactly the kind of unit that Houselink and Mainstay want to build or purchase more. You’re also living in the kind of unit that our Houselink participants live in for a very long, long time. We rarely have ANY vacancy in our self-contained units.

By voting to support this joining together, you are going to greatly help us in many ways:

  • Fulfill our mission and address homelessness. Since the pandemic, the Access Point waiting list has expanded from 17,000 to 19,000 individuals. We need to act now!
  • Support your fellow Houselink participants who currently live in shared housing who would much prefer a unit like you have, or a Houselink participant who lives in a privately rented unit in which we only have the unit for a limited period of time.
  • Create more accessible units and create more access to accessible apartments. Did you know that Mainstay has 11 elevators across their portfolio? We have only 2. Our goal is to create universally accessible units whenever and wherever we can.  

Finally, we have 11 properties (like at 805 Bloor, Harbord Street Mews and Channon Court) where we will be losing the operational subsidy because they are attached to 35-year mortgages. As a result, Houselink will need to take a more business-oriented approach to property management and find other sources of revenue to replace these subsidies.

No. It’s a choice. And both Houselink and Mainstay’s boards support it unanimously.

You will continue to get the level of service you need, both in support and programs. In fact, the agreement to join together makes the commitment that access to support and programs will not only stay the same but probably improve. Because so many of Houselink and Mainstay’s buildings are so close to each other, you will have easier access to services near you. Also, the savings realized by having a single administration will be put into more support and programs.

We know how important the support relationship is to our tenants and our goal is to disrupt that relationship as little as possible.

No. You will continue to receive the same access to supports and programs. Did you know that Mainstay has many buildings that offer support and programs at a higher level than Houselink? That’s because they have far more support partners providing services in their building and much more diversity of programs.

If you decide to sign up as a voting member, you’ll see in the agreement that any Houselink program that is at capacity or in high demand, will not be offered to Mainstay tenants unless we find a way to expand the program. That includes access to highly popular programs at Houselink like the Peggy Birnberg fund, camping trips, supportive employment programs. We already have a practice of preserving programs that are at capacity. For example, we support tenants at Toronto Community Housing for 8 years now and they do not have access to the Peggy Birnberg fund.

No. You will be able to keep your housing. And the good news is we’ll have access to a larger pool of housing, and our goal is to create more high-quality housing. So, some tenants, for example those who live in shared housing, may be able to eventually move into self-contained units.

Rent changes will be like they normally are. Joining together won’t change that.

If we join together, there will be more options available to you for housing. Both organizations have internal wait list procedures and a process will be established to assess available units and how to fill them. Also, current participants will have priority access to any new buildings we develop.

Many of Mainstay’s buildings have been rated higher quality than ours. In a recent RentSafe audit:

  • Houselink’s score was an average of 69.16% on 6 buildings
  • Mainstay’s average was 76.44% on 18 buildings

RentSafe is the City funded program that accesses annually multiplex buildings in Toronto.

In this environment, you need significant capacity in order to develop housing at the scale needed to address homelessness here in Toronto. Bigger is actually better for a lot of other reasons too:

  • We’ll have a bigger team to support you better.
  • We’ll have a larger budget to offer you more supports.
  • We’ll have access to more housing options.
  • Being a bigger organization gives us more control and access to more funding.
  • Houselink and Mainstay will be positioned as leaders and will have a stronger voice in the sector and with decision makers.

Because there will be one administration, it’s expected that there will be some adjustments at the top. We do fully expect that front-line staff roles that are there to serve and support your will actually increase. That said, we will treat everyone fairly and we will see where we can make adjustments based on retirements or the end of contracts etc.

That has not been decided. If there is a yes vote, the new board will need to discuss if we keep both the Houselink and Mainstay names, or potentially consider something new. Participants will be engaged in these decisions too.

If tenants vote that the two organizations should not join together, then both Boards will look at what other options there are to achieve their goals together. The reality is, the Boards see coming together is, by far, the best way to achieve their missions in a rapidly changing world. Both know that they need to change and that integration is the best way to allow them to thrive in the future and to protect what they have. Both Boards will have to look at their options to see if there is another integration model that makes sense.