Speech by Angus Palmer at the Sneak Peek Preview of the Pan Am / Parapan Am Games Athletes’ Village Residence

It’s a pleasure to welcome you here today. My name is Angus Palmer. I’m the General Manager of Wigwamen Incorporated, Ontario’s largest, and oldest, urban Aboriginal housing provider.

There is, as we all know, a desperate need for affordable housing in the City of Toronto. There are tens of thousands of households on the waiting list, just waiting and waiting for seven to ten years for a chance to live in a place which is affordable, where they can raise their families. And nowhere is this need felt more strongly than in the Aboriginal community.

You know, with the recent street needs assessment, 16% of the homeless on the streets were Aboriginal. That’s a population that represents roughly 1% of the City of Toronto’s population. Sixteen times more than we would reasonably anticipate.

And so Wigwamen, like many non-profit housing providers, tries to seize every opportunity that it can to add to its affordable housing stock. It’s been a little over two years since Infrastructure Ontario issued a Request for Expressions of Interest, calling on non-profit housing providers to indicate interest in owning and operating affordable housing in the city at the Pan Am / Parapan Am athletes’ village site. Together with our partners, the Ontario March of Dimes, and Accommodation, Information and Support, Wigwamen was proud to submit a proposal to own and operate affordable housing at the site.

And we were, to put it mildly, over the moon – over the moon – when in December of 2011 we were advised that Wigwamen was one of the successful proponents. It has been a wonderfully collaborative process to date, with Wigwamen and its partners integrally involved in the design and layout of our units, the selection of colours and materials, and the overall design of the new building, and I want to – there are many, many people I could thank today – one group I want to thank is Quadrangle Architect – specifically Anna Madeira and Amy Poitier – who’ve been awesome to work with, really great.

In 2016 when we purchase our 145 unit building, we’ll be purchasing a LEED Gold building, in an absolutely phenomenal downtown location. There hasn’t been affordable housing built on this scale in downtown since the 1970’s. What an opportunity. It’s a great location. Wigwamen will have spacious one, two, three and four bedroom units – four bedroom units. I mean, again, when we build social housing these days, what do we build? You build one bedrooms, you build two bedrooms, if you’re lucky you build a few three bedrooms, but the opportunity to build four bedroom units in the downtown core is something which is very special. And yes, we do believe that the downtown core is a fine place to raise a family. It’s a good place to raise a family. We simply need units that are the right size to raise them in.

Those 145 units that we’re purchasing will be affordable, at an average of 80% of the average market rent, with some of our tenants paying substantially less. Ours will be a truly diverse community, with the Ontario March of Dimes housing as many as 25 of its clients, with AIS housing as many as 15 of its clients, and with the remaining units being rented by members of Toronto’s Aboriginal community, and Toronto’s non-Aboriginal community. And of course we’ll be part of a broader brand new, planned LEED Gold community. Green, diverse, and affordable – that’s the community we’re building today, and that’s what we invite you to celebrate with us today. Thank you very much.

End of transcript.

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