Habitat For Humanity Greater Toronto Area

The mission of Habitat For Humanity Greater Toronto Area (HFHGTA) is to mobilize volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing for low-income families and promoting homeownership as a means to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Established in 1988, Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area is a non‐profit housing organization that mobilizes volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing and promoting homeownership as a means to breaking the cycle of poverty. We welcome all people without discrimination to join us as we build simple, decent, affordable homes in partnership with low‐income families.

One hundred percent of all administrative and fundraising costs are paid for by the operation of our five ReStores. Habitat ReStores sell new and gently‐used donated building and household products.

Over our 27-year history, Habitat GTA has helped over 250 families find the safety and security of a home.

Accolades and Accomplishments

  • Every 5.5 minutes, Habitat for Humanity helps a family improve their housing situation somewhere in the world.
  • Over 250 affordable homes built and families housed (including hundreds of children).
  • Since 2007, every HFHGTA home has been built to or beyond Energy Star qualifications.
  • Total 2013 ReStore sales reached just over $3 million. That translates into approximately 1,540 metric tons of material diverted from landfills or 44 fully loaded City of Toronto dump trucks.
  • In 2013, the first Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area partner family paid off their mortgage.

Our Programs How We Do It

By supporting HFHGTA, you are generating systemic change, promoting community economic development, and enabling deserving families to become financially self-sufficient. Our hand-up, not hand-out, solution not only increases the availability of social housing in the Greater Toronto Area, it enables low-income families to build assets, contribute to the tax base, reduce their dependence on other forms of social assistance and eventually break the cycle of poverty.

A Model that Works:

1. We identify eligible homeowners and prepare them for homeownership.

2. We help them build their homes with donated funds, materials and volunteer labour.

3. 100% of donations go to homebuilding; ReStore profits pay for all administration and fundraising costs.

4. Their home is purchased with a down payment of 500 hours of sweat equity.

5. Their interest-free mortgage is amortized to ensure payments are always less than 30% of their income.

6. We reinvest all donations and mortgage payments back into the homeownership program.

Homebuilding Projects

Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area builds between 35 - 50 homes a year, with several build sites at various levels of completion at any one time. Each project enables families to purchase safe, decent and affordable homes at cost with an interest-free, no-profit mortgage. Homeownership allows for a stable environment, predictable payments, and the ability to save and build equity for the future. We ensure our partner families do not spend more than 30% of their annual income on shelter, leaving sufficient income for food and health, and more time devoted to jobs, education and community.

Funding and Program Partners

We are supported by various foundations, corporations, and individuals. For each build, we source new prospects and approach these organizations and individuals for new or renewed support. To see a detailed listing of our supporters, please visit our website: http://www.habitatgta.ca/

Program Impact

A Habitat home frees families from the struggles and indignities of living in inadequate shelter. With the foundation of a safe, healthy, and affordable home, children do better in school and families set higher goals for their future.

  • 76% of Habitat homeowners report an immediate improvement in school grades, and 93% say it is now easy for their children to find space for doing school work.
  • 99% of Habitat GTA partner families feel safe inside their new Habitat home (a 22% increase pre-Habitat homeownership).
  • Families no longer rely on the annual subsidy required to support affordable rental programs. Instead, each Habitat GTA partner family contributes over $2,000 in property tax each year, helping to fund the services and programs vital to communities in the GTA.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"72,696 households (families and single people) in the city of Toronto (31,624 with children under 17) were on the active waiting list for social housing (in Q4 of 2012)" (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2013).

Participant Vignette

Without a roof over their heads and a door to lock safely behind them, women and their children are at great risk of physical, emotional and psychological harm. This was life before Helen Avila and her three children learned about Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area through their temporary homes, two women’s shelters in Toronto.

Family, health and financial problems consumed Helen’s life. Living in the shelter’s overcrowded conditions, each day was getting harder to get through. Her children’s dreams of becoming a veterinarian, train engineer and a lawyer were slowly slipping away.

Being accepted as a Habitat GTA partner family was a life changing moment the family will always remember. Helen said, “(My children’s) future will change because they will have a home purchased by my efforts and sweat. It will be a gift for them from me, a sentimental value.”

Helen and her family are looking forward to throwing a welcoming party to celebrate the surreal dream of homeownership. They look forward to leaving behind feelings of loneliness and saying hello to security and more family time together, doing the things they love.

Building Blocks Initiative

Over the next several years, Toronto’s population is anticipated to grow to over 3 million residents*. If trends continue one in five of Toronto’s total population - or 570,000 residents - will live in core housing need. These dynamics will place further challenges on core city infrastructure, transit, social services and land use planning. Most significantly, if not effectively addressed, these dynamics will create an even deeper divide between the rich and the poor, resulting in erosion of the economic health and quality of living in the city for all.

In response to Toronto's growing urgent need for affordable housing, our goal is to consistently build 40-45 homes per year by 2015 and engage several thousand volunteers. It takes more than just volunteer power, bricks, and mortar to build affordable housing in Toronto. A great deal of work needs to be done before we can bring volunteers on site and being pouring the foundations for the home.

*Ontario Population Projections Update. Ministry of Finance. Spring 2012.

Funding and Program Partners

The Building Blocks Initiative is designed to ensure that Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area has the necessary funds to cover the expenses associated with affordable homebuilding prior to the start of a project.

We invite individuals, corporations and other community partners to join us in laying the building blocks for the future.

Program Impact

Through a donation to our Building Blocks Initiative, we can provide GTA families with a safe and decent place to live. Providing access to quality, affordable homeownership helps break the cycle of poverty. It also ensures that children grow up in a safe, stable environment, helping lay the foundation for success later in life.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Affordability continues to erode in Toronto for homebuyers and for the approximate 50% of residents who are renters. The number of households on the waiting list for affordable housing continues to climb, and more Torontonians (both individuals and families) are resorting to the city's emergency shelters." (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2013).

Participant Vignette

“I remember rushing into their info meeting after work, grabbing fast food for my son for dinner on the way there. I got myself an application after the meeting and I remember filling it out that same night. For the next few weeks I kept my fingers crossed hoping that Habitat would contact me soon. A short time later I did get a letter from Habitat saying that they had received my application at which time they supplied me with a file number for future correspondence.At this point although Habitat had not said yes or no towards the approval of my application, I still felt as if there was a ray of light and a speck of hope. As time went by during my application process I went on to appreciate and respect Habitat. Not only were they non-discriminating and non-judgmental, they didn’t care about my religion, creed, colour or race. What they do care about is that I meet criteria, I am honest, and that I am a hard working tax payer who pays my bills on time.Make no mistake, this is not a handout. All partner families must put in their 500 sweat equity hours as well as continue their commitment to helping other partner families. I will never forget the phone call that I received from Habitat on December 18, 2007. I asked the Habitat staff at the other end of the phone if she could please lower the phone so that I could scream, and she did. After I finished screaming, she went on to wishing Beau and I a Merry Christmas and a happy birthday by presenting us with approval for partnership homeownership with Habitat.”

-Audrey and Beau McDonald, HFHGTA partner family



Volunteers are the heart and soul of Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area. Approximately 10,000 volunteers worked 18, 000 volunteer shifts and donated over 118,000 volunteer hours for Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area in 2012! This means that for every 1 Habitat staff member, almost 200 volunteers donated their time. 

It's never been easier to book a volunteer shift with Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area. We've upgraded to a faster and more efficient system called VolunteerHub*. Creating a new account only takes 2 minutes. This means less time wasted filling out paperwork, painless shift sign-up, less paper wasted on waivers and scheduling, and most importantly, more hours volunteering!

Whether you want to get your hands dirty on a Habitat Build Site, join the heavy-lifting salvage crew, help with a Habitat event, or provide exceptional customer service in a Habitat ReStore, sign up to be a Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area volunteer. Click the following link to sign up for a shift http://www.habitatgta.ca/volunteer.html

*VolunteerHub (a product of Carr Engineering, Inc.) is a leading volunteer software for non-profits and other organizations. To learn more about VolunteerHub, please go to http://www.volunteerhub.com/.

Funding and Program Partners

Manulife Financial has continued to support Habitat GTA's volunteers since 2010 with the exclusive Volunteer Program Sponsorship. In this time, thousands of volunteers have joined us on the build site, in our Restore and in the office, registered for shifts online, participated in volunteer recognition events and felt firsthand the power of volunteerism and the impact of their actions.

Program Impact

When people with the will and determination to make a difference come together in a supportive and educational environment, where they feel comfortable learning skills, meeting new people and developing a deeper commitment to volunteerism and philanthropy, we are able to further our vision of a world where every man, woman and child has a simple, decent and affordable home.

Each build site will provide opportunities for up to 10,000 individuals (depending on size of build site) to donate their time and skills to Habitat GTA. They will be given an opportunity to swing a hammer on site and make a tangible difference in their own community. People with little or no construction experience work alongside those who have more to build a quality home for a family living in need.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“As a society we can no longer afford to operate in isolation from one another. Our problems are too complex for any one solution alone. Our collective impact can create the kind of change our society and indeed our world, needs” (Anne Gloger quoted in Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2012).

Participant Vignette

Completing his final year in Construction Management has yet to slow down Benjamin Valliquette Kissel’s volunteerism. Volunteering for Habitat since 2009, Benjamin has worked at the Hainford Street, Williams Way and 4572 Kingston Road build sites. Benjamin is also a member of the Habitat Campus Coalition (HCC), a collective of post-secondary students that organize events such as the recurring Home-a-Thon and Reading Week Build. “I am inspired to build homes with Habitat because of the amazing people who volunteer and the lasting, positive impact it has on the community,” says Benjamin. “Habitat does so much good in our city, and volunteering is the best way to give back.” Working towards a future in construction, Benjamin plans to put his education into action. “I look forward to promoting a culture of volunteering and community service with my future career in construction, and the projects and friendships I will develop with Habitat Toronto!” he says.

-Benjamin Valliquette Kissell

What You Can Do

Homebuilding Projects

Activities a donation will support

100% of your grant will support building costs and the purchase of much-needed construction materials.

  • $3,500 allows us to purchase materials for the plumbing and piping in a Habitat home.
  • $120 allows us to purchase a pair of safety boots for our build site volunteers.
  • $5,000 allows us to purchase materials for the roof of a Habitat home.
  • $25 allows us to purchase one hard hat for our build site volunteers.
  • $500 allows us to purchase electrical wiring for a Habitat home.

Donation impact

A grant towards this program will forever change the lives of hardworking families currently living in conditions of need. We are proud to say that 100% of all donations will go directly to homebuilding and program costs, as 100% of all administrative and fundraising costs are paid for by the operation of our ReStores. HFHGTA is not just about building houses. We are about building stronger, healthier, happier families through homeownership. A grant to this program will:

  • Frame the future for deserving families by providing the lumber and framing materials.
  • Shelter children by providing the roof over their heads.
  • Provide the foundation for a revitalized neighbourhood through the development of vacant land into a thriving family-focused community.

Building Blocks Initiative

Activities a donation will support

Grants for this program will enable us to purchase land and/or existing buildings, pay for development fees, permits and licenses, and pay to service the land so that we can build on it. These expenses account for roughly 50% of our homebuilding costs. From now until 2015, we require $10m to purchase, and service land and existing buildings, and to cover other costly development charges.

In Toronto, development charges currently average 10% of the cost ($26,000) of each home delivered to a low income family and all government fees (development charges, land transfer tax, park levies, permits, etc.) average 15% of the cost of each Habitat home. HST incurred at sale of home to the partner family adds another 5%. Thus, all government fees account for 20% of the costs of Habitat for Humanity homes and, given the nature of the Habitat mortgage model, are fully incurred up-front by HFHGTA.

Donation impact

Your support of the Building Blocks Initiatives is essential to our ability to consistently build 40-45 homes per year by 2015.

Affordable housing is a greater problem today than it was 25 years ago. Support of this intiative will help us realize the opportunities ahead now and over the next 5 years to deliver housing to those in need and to be a viable part of the solution to the housing crisis.


Activities a donation will support

A grant for this program will go directly toward volunteer training, development, recognition and program supplies such as volunteer t-shirts, lunches, and safety gear (hard hats, tool belts, safety shoes and gloves).

Donation impact

Your support of the Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area's volunteer program will be instrumental in helping us realize our mission.


John Bell
Writer / Researcher
416.755.7353 x260
Charitable Number: 133824680RR0001

Finance & Governance


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