The roots of seniors’ housing go back 30 years

Leaside Lives

The SAHIL building in Leaside.
The SAHIL building in Leaside.

The Leaside community has always been blessed with great leaders and creative thinkers. In the mid-80s, two individuals in particular stood out and joined forces to develop housing solutions for retirees in Leaside. 

Bob Hart was an exceptional man, who built several condo buildings in Ottawa and in his youth worked under the governor in Hong Kong. He introduced outboard motors to the fishermen in the harbour. Bob was also the brother-in-law of Dr. Orville P. Hossie, the minister at Leaside United Church. This gave him unrestricted access to the congregation that would become very supportive of his initiatives. The second leader was Edna Beange, well-known to Leasiders as a former Borough of East York alderman and director of Toronto East General Hospital.

Bob and Edna observed that the 80s started to see a transition of the family home from being a happy, supportive place to raise a family to housing seniors who were often living alone, sometimes having trouble making ends meet on a fixed income.

I observed the problem firsthand when I was invited into a semi on Airdrie to give a senior a price for his place. When I entered his home, it was cold and dark. He took me on a tour, which included looking at a very old forced-air, gas furnace. We ended up in the kitchen sitting at a small table. I looked at the counter and saw a CO detector sitting on its back. I said, “We should plug the detector in.” He replied, “Heck no. It makes a terrible racket!” I looked straight into his eyes and asked, “Where do your children live?” He said, “We never had any.” I told him he needed the services of Community Care East York (CCEY) and made the referral. 

This scene has played out many times since then. Sometimes family simply live too far away to really know what’s going on, and many seniors refuse to get a smartphone or computer.

The birth of SAHIL

So, Bob and Edna decided to tackle the issue head-on. Downsizing was only part of the solution. It made costs more controllable and removed most of the concerns surrounding the physical maintenance of a house, but where to go? Leasiders generally don’t want to move to Don Mills, Yonge and St. Clair, etc. Their solution? Build apartment buildings, in Leaside, designed for Leaside seniors! Hence the birth of SAHIL, Stay at Home in Leaside.

When I was president of the Leaside United Church Youth Group, I met with Edna and Bob many times. They invited me to join the SAHIL group and together we made plans for seniors’ housing. At the time, I was the national training director and vice-president of the residential division of Royal LePage Residential Real Estate Services. It was a good fit!

Leaside real estate statistics, Jan. – Oct., 2019

The “workhorse” property of Leaside is the semi-detached house with a mutual drive. This is the transition of condo owners and renters into Leaside housing:

Semi-detached: 31 sales • Low price $960,000 • High price $1,640,000 • DOM* Avg 8

Detached: 72 sales • Low price $1,399,000 • High price $4,895,000 • DOM Avg 15

The “endangered” bungalow: 9 sales • Low price $1,185,000 • High price $1,555,000 • DOM (median) 12

True Leaside condos: 44 sales • Low price $428,888 • High price $1,877,000 • DOM Avg 18

*DOM: Days on the market.

Welcome to Leaside Life’s new real estate column, where different Leaside real estate agents and experts offer their unique take on housing in the community. For our first column, Roy St. John, 
broker & V.P. at REMAX Condos Plus Corp., uncovers the roots of seniors’ housing in Leaside.