Rooming Houses

In 2018, Dixon Hall, along with Homes First and Ecuhome, was contracted by the City of Toronto to take over and re-envision the day-to-day running of 23 Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) -owned rooming houses across north and south Cabbagetown (and one outlier in the Annex). The goal - to create a less isolated, more supportive and more inclusive living environment for over 200 existing (and future) rooming house tenants.

The success of this initial work led to Dixon Hall being tasked with renovating and revitalizing several large Cabbagetown rooming houses, to provide additional affordable housing for those in need.

Dixon Hall has dubbed its overall vision, philosophy, and approach to managing these critical initiatives as ‘The Rooming House Project’.

contact-info

Contact

Jennifer Moxon, Manager of Community Development
The Rooming House Project
e. jennifer.moxon@dixonhall.org

Joel Regehr, Tenant Services Manager
The Rooming House Project
e. joel.regehr@dixonhall.org

A rooming house is defined as a multi-tenant unit – apartment, house, or building – with shared kitchens and bathrooms. Tenants pay individually for private rooms, with a minimum of four people sharing a unit. Shared costs, backed by community subsidies, make the rent much more affordable, so rooming houses often cater to low-income individuals, many of whom are facing complex challenges such as living with disabilities or mental health issues, coping with job loss or family breakdown, or struggling with addictions. Rooming houses in Toronto date back to the Great Depression, when wealthy homeowners rented out rooms to help survive the economic downturn. Post World War Two, they then became a popular and respectable accommodation for returning soldiers. However, through the 60s, 70s and 80s many were owned by unscrupulous landlords, fell into neglect and disrepute, and became, unfortunately, a substandard living environment. Overriding issues of safety and reputation still remain to this day. Dixon Hall has been and will continue to work hard to change these negative perceptions, as rooming houses represent one of the last remaining, affordable housing options for single people in this City. Rooming houses can, in fact, provide a vital lifeline that helps prevent even more people from experiencing homelessness.

Dixon Hall believes that housing is a human right, and an essential part of a healthy life. We recognize that individuals and communities become healthier when people are housed. If properly designed and supported, rooming houses can be a viable, low-cost option for people looking to access housing.

Even though rooming houses offer much needed, affordable, shared accommodations, they can still be socially isolating for occupants, with little or no common space to enjoy outside of their individual rooms. In addition, many tenants are dealing with difficult personal circumstances. Combined, this can create a tough environment that makes it challenging for tenants to build positive relationships with each other, and with the community beyond.

The Rooming House Project is designed to leverage all of Dixon Hall’s unique wraparound support capabilities to help rooming house tenants overcome these challenges, promote personal autonomy, create a sense of community and belonging, and improve their overall quality of life.

The high touch, on-site approach that Dixon Hall takes to rooming house management also ensures that any issues that arise at a given property can be quickly and efficiently resolved or mitigated, leading to a safer and more secure environment for both tenants and neighbours.

Read more about The Rooming House Project in our Blog:
Supporting Rooming House Tenants in Cabbagetown
Building Relationships & Community Connections
The Importance of Tenant Engagement

As an extension of The Rooming House Project, Dixon Hall will now be undertaking the complete interior and exterior renovation (and future day-to-day running) of a row of four large Second Empire properties at 502-208 Parliament Street, in the heart of Cabbagetown. These were formerly TCHC rooming houses that had fallen into disrepair and were uninhabitable.

The objective of this project is to completely reconceptualize the rooming house accommodation at these properties, based around a more holistic, supportive, and inclusive community approach to rooming house living. Interiors will provide clean, functional, bright and affordable living spaces that promote pride of ownership with tenants. Exteriors will be renovated in line with local and City heritage restoration and preservation guidelines.

Current plans are for new occupancy to begin sometime in the spring or summer of 2021.

Dixon Hall intends for this project to become a blueprint for an improved rooming house model that can be replicated in other affordable housing properties across the City.

You can read more about this project in the NRU Housing Newsletter (see pages 3 & 4)

If you have lived experience from a rooming house, please reach out to share your insights and experiences. Contact: roominghouses@dixonhall.org

Have you been interested in offering your art skills or cooking skills to share with low income folks? The rooming house project is always interested in connecting neighbours with neighbours to share and teach skills to. If you have an idea for a free workshop, in the future, please contact Jennifer Moxon: jennifer.moxon@dixonhall.org

Please send your name and email to us if you’d like to hear related news and updates from Dixon Hall: roominghouses@dixonhall.org

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