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News and Resources

South Africans Connect with Toronto Social Housing Sector

News and Resources

By: Rooftops Canada


In February, four representatives of South Africa’s National Association of Social Housing Organizations (NASHO) visited Toronto social housing projects and attended the Housing Services Corporation’s Urban Regeneration Forum 2014.


NASHO, a longstanding partner of Rooftops Canada, has 18 member organizations that own and manage 24,000 non-profit units. NASHO also runs a capacity development program for its members and municipalities.


The South African delegation included two people from eThekwini (formerly Durban) - Meera Bhoora from First Metro Housing Company and Smangele Moloi, Social Housing Manager for the City. Cape Town’s representatives were Gavin Wiseman from Communicare and Antony Marks from the City Planning and Urban Design Department Marks noted that “The Regeneration Forum was an excellent start to our visit as it contextualized Toronto’s social housing sector and highlighted the City’s potential.”


The group met with the City of Toronto’s Affordable Housing Office and Toronto Community Housing. They were impressed by the strategy in Regent Park and Alexandra Park to create vibrant, mixed-income neighbourhoods. The regeneration projects have both brought together private and public partnerships, and they are creating communities where families can live, work and engage in social and cultural activities. Moloi said, “We learned from Toronto’s social housing experience the evolutionary process where strategies and issues are always changing and are being adjusted. The social housing sector in eThekwini is new. It needs to work towards a practice of flexibility to respond to the changing context of South Africa.”   


After a visit to WoodGreen Community Services and Fred Victor Centre, Wiseman said, “We gained an excellent understanding of the integration of various services – such as food access, employment and health services – along with the housing component.” 


The visit to the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) highlighted the importance of education, capacity building and policy research. “We shared similarities and differences in our approaches to affordable housing. One surprising outcome is we discovered our affordable housing program is really not so different from their housing program in South Africa. One notable difference is that the South Africa social housing is based on once off capital subsidies, not operating subsidies.” said Jo Ferris-Davies of ONPHA.


Summing up their time in Toronto, Bhoora said, “I am deeply thankful to Rooftops Canada and all of our hosts. It has been an amazing visit that provided us opportunities to learn, network and build relationships.”