By: Brad Lester, Overseas Program Manager, Rooftops Canada
We were sorry to see our South African study visitors return home on 25 March after an exciting and exhausting week in Toronto and Hamilton. Three of our visitors, Kelikile Kwinana, Phakamile Ximiya and Rheena Hansarajh, represented the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) which provides capital grants and capacity building support to social housing institutions which it also accredits. Pasana Mbonane, John Mofokeng, Gafee Vengadajellum, Andrew Wiseman and Anthony Lloyd represented the National Association of Social Housing Organizations (NASHO). Rooftops Canada is working with both the SHRA and NASHO on the Equal Spaces to End Social Apartheid Project. Global Affairs Canada is the primary funder and a project partner.
Following a tour of downtown Toronto, the study visitors dug into the main theme for the visit, Exploring Best Practice, Management Systems and Back Office Tools for Growth and Management of Social Housing. There are about 28,000 social housing units under management in South Africa with plans to double this number in the next few years. Some of the existing social housing institutions will have to grow very quickly and new ones are needed. The study visitors looked at mechanisms to provide services to social and co-op housing organizations in Ontario and British Columbia (BC) that could be used in South Africa. This included examples such as:
- private sector company than manage about 20% of Toronto Community Housing’s 58,500 units
- ongoing training, bulk purchasing and other support from the Ontario and British Columbia Non-Profit Housing Associations
- BC Housing, a provincial housing agency, working with BC Non-Profit Housing Association and supporting social housing groups that are assuming management of BC Housing projects
- Co-op housing linked companies such as Homestarts and Niagara Peninsula Homes that provide a full range of management services to individual housing co-ops
- Victoria Park Community Homes, a large social housing provider that provides services to smaller providers in the Hamilton area and Cahdco, an offshoot of Centretown Citizens Ottawa that provides development services to other social housing agencies; and
- Indwell an innovative charity in Hamilton and the London [Ontario] Development Corporation both using new models for affordable housing partnerships.
The visitors also shared experiences with Ken Albers from M’akola Housing Society based in Victoria BC, and Don McBain from Ontario Aboriginal Housing Society in Northern Ontario. Both groups service numerous small First Nations social housing projects in scattered communities from a central base. This model may be very useful for some of the more sparsely populated regions of South Africa.
The many sessions combined site visits, “show and tell” from both Canadian and South African participants, and many workshops facilitated by Jo Ferris-Davies. She is one of our senior advisors based in Johannesburg and accompanied the visitors. She will also be following up with them in South Africa.
There were far too many people and organizations to mention and to thank each one for volunteering their time and experience to make the visit a success. We would however like to especially thank Toronto Community Housing for hosting many of the sessions in one of the wonderful new social housing buildings in the Regent Park redevelopment; Victoria Park Community Homes for hosting a terrific day in Hamilton; and all of the people that flew into Toronto from BC, Ottawa and Northern Ontario.