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GTA risks losing its “community glue” without designating space for non-profits according to newly released survey

  • Authored by Toronto’s Social Purpose Real Estate (SPRE) Reference Group, the “Greater Toronto Non-Profit Community Space Survey” takes a pulse-check of the state of community organizations’ access to operating space throughout the GTA.

February 15, 2023 (Toronto, ON) – Organizations providing critical social infrastructure are now being pushed out of the neighbourhoods that depend on them, and as a result, our society risks losing its “community glue,” according to the “Greater Toronto Non-Profit Community Space Survey,” a newly released research report by Toronto’s Social Purpose Real Estate (SPRE) Reference Group.

Citing causes such as skyrocketing real estate prices, redevelopment pressures and more, the research report examines the challenges community organizations are facing as they grapple with some of the same financial and real estate trends that are driving increased demand for their services.

“When community space is lost, it’s not just a huge loss for the non-profits that occupy them, it’s also a huge loss to people these organizations employ and the communities they serve,” says Alix Aylen, Program Lead for the Social Purpose Real Estate Accelerator Program, through the Infrastructure Institute at the University of Toronto’s School of Cities. “It’s a loss in the cultural landscape of the neighbourhood.”

The survey shows that non-profits in the GTA have experienced increasing demand for their services, but cannot access affordable, long-term, and appropriate spaces to meet current and projected demand. Just over 70% of responding organizations reported that their ability to operate is dependent on access to at least one form of subsidy, discount or access to free space. Organizations are concerned about their ability to maintain access to the spaces they operate out of and the risks that poses to their ability to continue serving the community.

The report concludes with a list of recommendations proposed by the group’s members – leaders in the SPRE field – based on years of experience in the sector and insights from the survey. Those recommendations include strategies to leverage existing assets and ways government and community organizations can work together to make more space available for non-profit ownership and to create opportunities for affordable, long-term leases.

The SPRE Reference Group was born out of a series of conversations co-led by the City of Toronto and United Way Greater Toronto in 2018. Chaired by the University of Toronto’s Infrastructure Institute in the School of Cities, the group is composed of leading actors in the SPRE sector, including community organizations, municipalities and leaders from the private sector.

The group aims to evolve the current practice of SPRE in the GTA by bringing together non-profit, public and private sector agencies to support organizations in pursuing, developing, and sustaining real estate and long-term spaces with a community benefit such as affordable housing or community service space.

Media Contact:

Shelby Lee
Communications Officer — Infrastructure Institute
School of Cities | University of Toronto

Lindsay Kwan
Manager, Communications – United Way Greater Toronto

About United Way: As the largest non-government funder of community services in the GTA, United Way Greater Toronto reinforces a crucial community safety net to support people living in poverty. United Way’s network of agencies and initiatives in neighbourhoods across Peel, Toronto and York Region works to ensure that everyone has access to the programs and services they need to thrive. Mobilizing community support, United Way’s work is rooted in ground-breaking research, strategic leadership, local advocacy and cross-sectoral partnerships committed to building a more equitable region and lasting solutions to the GTA’s greatest challenges.  

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