The Habitat Model


The Habitat model is unique in Ontario. It is based on a contract between Habitat Services, a non-profit agency, and the owners of private sector and non-profit boarding homes.  Regular monitoring of the houses ensures compliance with the contract and its attached standards.  On-site housing support services for tenants are provided by staff of either Habitat Services or Cota.  Habitat Services funds and monitors 45 boarding homes and 15 apartment units at sites across the City of Toronto.  Habitat funded homes and apartments provide permanent housing for 931 adults.

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The Contract

Habitat Services enters into a commercial contract with owners of boarding homes in Toronto.  The majority of the homes are owned by private business people who in many cases operate the homes themselves.  There are also six homes run by non-profit organizations and three apartment style units in the portfolio.

The contract outlines the building and nutritional standards as well as the residential services standards that owners and operators must meet at all times.  Habitat monitors the services provided to tenants and pays a per diem subsidy to owners.  The amount of per diem paid depends on the income of the tenant.  The subsidy program is funded by the City of Toronto and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

Habitat Services also coordinates regular education sessions for owners, operators and their staff that work in the homes as part of the contractual agreement. Education sessions include a wide variety of topics such as mental health, diabetes, nutrition, fire safety, and diversity.

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Contract Monitoring Program

Each Habitat funded home is assigned a Residential Services Inspector.  The Residential Services Inspector works with the boarding home owner and operator to ensure that they are meeting the requirements of the contract and that tenants are receiving the services to which they are entitled under the contract.  Tenants who have complaints or questions about their entitlements may bring them to the Residential Services Inspector.  The assigned Residential Services Inspector meets with the home operator regularly and attends house meetings with housing support workers from either Habitat Services or Cota.

The Residential Services Inspector also makes scheduled and unscheduled visits to the homes to inspect the building and nutritional standards as listed in the Habitat Services contract requirements.  They check to see that the house is in good repair, is serving first quality food and that the tenants are receiving the supplies to which they are entitled.   The Habitat Residential Services Inspector ensures that the home owners/operators address identified deficiencies and that proper pest control is in place.

Tenants have tenancy rights under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).  The RTA is provincial legislation that outlines the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.  The Habitat Residential Services Inspectors monitor owners’ adherence to the RTA when dealing with tenancy issues.  If there are issues of concern between the tenant and home owner/operator, then a Tenant/Operator Dispute Meeting is held. The meeting includes the owner/operator, the tenant, the Residential Services Inspector assigned to the house and the tenant’s support. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the issues and look for possible solutions in order to maintain housing.  In most cases, these meetings have resulted in agreements between the home owners/operators and tenants that have avoided evictions.  The Tenant/Operator Dispute Meeting process must be followed by all owners/operators.

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Habitat Services Housing Support Program

Habitat’s Housing Support Program has provided on-site services to tenants since 1999.  The program currently serves tenant communities in 10 boarding homes and three shared apartments.  Each setting has a team of two or more Housing Support Workers assigned to it.  The number of workers in each team and the number of visits they make per week varies according to the size and needs of the house.  Tenant participation in the activities organized by Housing Support Workers is voluntary.

Habitat Housing Support Workers use a community development model of support.  The housing support teams are flexible and responsive to the needs and wishes of the tenant community in each home.  They seek tenant input into the program on an ongoing basis.

The community development support model involves:

  • Providing opportunities for tenants to interact and socialize with one another and build a sense of community in their housing
  • Supporting tenants to acquire and practice skills in a safe environment, which will enable them to participate in the community
  • Supporting tenants to self-advocate and exercise their rights in housing and other areas

During their visits to the homes, the Housing Support Workers offer group social and recreational activities.  Tenants also have the opportunity to enjoy major outings with tenants of other homes such as visiting the Royal Ontario Museum and Centre Island.

Housing Support Workers can also provide some individual support to tenants who do not have case managers.

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Cota Boarding Home Site Support Program

Cota, a not-for-profit agency, provides services to people with serious mental health issues living in the community.  The Cota Boarding Home Site Support Program provides on-site support to tenants in 30 Habitat funded homes.  For more information about Cota’s Boarding Home Site Support Program go to: http://www.cotainspires.ca/content.php?doc=665

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Intake and Referral

The Access Point

All referrals to Habitat-funded housing must be made through The Access Point office.  Your case manager or worker can help you to apply or you can make a self-referral.  The Access Point receives referrals from over 100 sources, including hospitals, community mental health agencies and shelters.

Before filling out The Access Point Coordinated Access Referral Form, we encourage you to visit The Access Point website.

The website has information on all the supportive housing providers in Toronto and will help you make an informed decision about your housing options.  You can also complete The Access Point application on the website. If you need assistance or have any questions about the application form, please call The Access Point at 416-640-1934.

Habitat Services Intake & Referral Department:

The Habitat Services Intake Department includes an Intake Worker and a Referral Worker. The Intake and Referral Workers work with The Access Point to match tenants to vacancies in Habitat-funded homes. Once an application has been completed and Habitat is listed, or The Access Point forwards the application to us based on eligibility, the Habitat Services Intake Worker will process the application. The Referral Worker will then match the applicant to an available vacancy.  An applicant’s preferences regarding location or other factors will be considered as much as possible.  The Referral Worker will then forward the application to the owner/operator.  If the owner/operator wishes to meet the applicant for an interview, they will notify the Referral Worker.  At this point, the applicant and their worker, if applicable, will make arrangements directly with the owner/operator to meet the owner/operator and visit the home.

The owner/operator and the applicant will each decide whether the referral is the right match.  Tenants who move into Habitat funded homes sign a tenancy agreement and pay monthly room and board charges.  If the applicant is not accepted for tenancy or does not want to move into the home, the Referral Worker will try to match them to another vacancy.

Tenants who already live in Habitat-funded homes may request a transfer to another Habitat funded home by contacting the Habitat Intake and Referral Department.  If the housing application is older than one year, a new application form will have to be submitted.

Room and Board Charges:

Tenants pay room and board depending on their source of income.  Presently, tenants who receive benefits from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) pay $543.30 per month.  Tenants in receipt of Ontario Works (OW) pay $356.72 per month.  Tenants in receipt of other types of income pay a rate that is calculated as a percentage of income.  Tenants who are ineligible for subsidy will pay an individual rent negotiated with the home owner.

To apply for Habitat-funded housing or other mental health supportive housing in Toronto, download and print the Coordinated Access Referral Form. Once the form is completed, please fax the application to The Access Point office at 416-499-9716. 

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