Options for Homes: Non-profit Builder Offers Access to Affordable Ownership

By Zoe Ackah
Zoe Ackah
Zoe Ackah
December 31, 2013 Updated: January 3, 2014

Special Feature

As you may have read in our feature article about Options for Homes, purchasing a home from a non-profit helps save between $40,000 and $70,000 per unit. This savings represents the profit, large marketing budgets, and the high-ticket amenity costs typical builders include in the price. 

The brainchild of social entrepreneur Michel (Mike) Labbé, president and CEO of Options for Homes, the Options model will celebrate its 20th year helping people with modest incomes obtain home ownership in 2014. 

Beginning as the first to develop in the now-legendary Distillery District, Options’ buildings use Deltera, the construction arm of Tridel, as contractor. Deltera is recognized as one of the finest construction companies in Canada. 

Because there is no need to maximize profit, no corners are cut during the building process. Instead, owner comfort and affordability is top priority. All new Options buildings have carbon filtration systems to promote air quality, solar hot water heating, available car sharing, and individual utilities metering. 

Helping people own faster

The Options formula allows any buyer, regardless of income, to put five percent down. Options then provides each purchaser with an additional loan worth 13 percent of the purchase price as a contribution to their down payment. There are no payments on this 13 percent second mortgage as long as the purchaser plans to live in the unit. 

Owners only pay back the second mortgage when they sell, rent out the unit, or die. The second mortgage accrues no interest. When the unit is sold or rented, the principal must be paid back plus an appreciation value that is tied to the percentage of increase in the value of the home. These funds are paid back to Options’ sister non-profit, Home Ownership Alternatives, an organization that ensures the funds are used to create more cost-effect ownership housing and help others.

Information sessions

Purchase consultants, who are often Options owners themselves, meet with buyers one-on-one, helping them through the entire purchase process. For first-time homebuyers this is a tremendous support.

Sessions are held every other weekend and include a 40-minute presentation by Labbé after which he answers questions personally. He explains all the features of the building and the Options financing model. Even if you don’t buy anything, it is a great learning experience. 

“We provide extra one-on-one service that you’d need a whole team to do in a typical home-buying scenario,” explained Options for Homes marketing coordinator Jessica Speziale. 

Unlike for-profit consultants, Options staff is focused on helping more people attain home ownership sooner, not on earning commissions. Buyers meet with their consultant many times throughout the purchase process for support and advice.

Here are two projects Options has for sale right now.

Village at Main Station

Located a 5-minute walk from Main subway station, the Village at Main Station is also a short walk from the Metro grocery store, Target, and Shoppers Drug Mart.

Designed by Page+Steele the 277-unit building will include an outdoor terrace with community gardens and barbeques. Amenities include a boardroom, library, lounge and multi-purpose room with kitchen. 

Prices start from $146,000 to $366,000 for now, with occupancy beginning in the fall of 2016. Unit sizes range from 400 sq. ft. bachelors to 980 sq. ft. three-bedroom suites. Maintenance fees are a modest $0.44 per sq. ft. 

Danforth Village Estates

The 286-unit Danforth Village Estates will be designed by Icke Brochu Architects. Units range from 550 sq. ft. one bedrooms to 979 two-bedroom plus dens with prices from $150,400 to $247, 075. The maintenance fees are $0.41 per sq. ft. 

It is located at Danforth Rd. and Brimley Road, a 10-minute bus ride to either Kennedy Station to the east or Scarborough Town Centre to the north. 

The building sits directly next to Knob Hill Park, with its greenery, basketball court, and outdoor pool. Across the park is Knob Hill Public School, which is also home to a Junior YMCA childcare facility.

Amenities include a library, lounge, boardroom, and multi-purpose room with kitchen. Occupancy is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2015. 

Info: www.optionsforhomes.ca

Zoe Ackah