Habitat for Humanity GTA > Year-in-Review 2020


Year in Review

With both the global pandemic and recognition of ongoing systemic racism, 2020 reminded us that we have a lot more work to do to make adequate housing a basic human right.

In the face of the unique set of new challenges presented in 2020, Habitat GTA found ways to innovate as we adapted our operations with the health and safety of our community first and foremost in mind.

We learned a lot about ourselves and our community. We banded together through work from home orders and figured out how to best collaborate, support our Habitat homeowners and teams, and inspire each other virtually. We saw our donors and volunteers step up when our build sites and families needed them the most. And last but certainly not least, we witnessed the resiliency of our families as they navigated through their Habitat homeownership journey with all the changes and uncertainty COVID-19 presented us with.

Through this 2020 adversity, one thing remained the same – our dedication to addressing one of the most pressing issues in the GTA of our time: the need for safe, decent and affordable housing.

We invite you to relive the positive stories of 2020, achieved through the unwavering support of our volunteers, donors, corporate partners and friends of all kinds. Here is a look back at some of the most memorable Habitat moments of last year… and a glimpse of what’s ahead in 2021.

Habitat Durham & Habitat GTA joined forces

Last year, Habitat for Humanity’s Durham chapter officially amalgamated with Habitat GTA. By bringing our affiliates together it has allowed us to focus our volunteer, family services, construction and community resources to help bring more new affordable housing to families in Durham.

After joining forces, we completed construction on 4 new homes at CentreTowne, a 24-home Habitat community in Oshawa. Our next major homebuilding project in Durham will be a 50-unit stacked townhouse development on Normandy Street, a former Oshawa social housing site.

We helped break barriers for women in construction

Year in Review 2020 - Construction Site Women's build

On International Women’s Day (IWD) we hosted a build for the female trainees of Building Up at CentreTowne. We used the opportunity to challenge the stereotype that working in the trades is only for men. We took to social media using the IWD hashtag (#EachforEqual) to promote the work of women breaking barriers in construction on our build site.

We were pleased to be joined by more than 15 women from Building Up’s pre-apprenticeship program, as well as Marie Clarke-Walker, the Secretary Treasurer at the Canadian Labour of Congress and a champion for diversity and inclusion and gender equality.

We opened a new Habitat ReStore in Etobicoke

In the midst of the pandemic, we managed to open our newest Habitat ReStore location in Etobicoke. The 16,600 sq. ft. store marks are largest retail space to date. Getting the store ready for the grand opening was truly a community effort as staff, volunteers and local businesses banded together to get the store ready while adhering to strict health & safety protocols.

As the social enterprise of Habitat GTA, Habitat ReStore donated 100% of opening day sales to Tropicana Community Services and the Black Health Alliance. Thanks to our Etobicoke customers, we were able to raise $3,655 to be split equally between these two impactful organizations in our community.

Habitat ReStore online shopping: Launched!

Year in Review 2020 - Chair
Year in Review 2020 -Standing Tub
Year in Review 2020
Year in Review 2020 - Light Blue Sofa

In March, with safety as our top priority, we made the difficult decision to temporarily close our 12 Habitat ReStore locations ahead of government orders. The operation of Habitat ReStore is vital to our organization’s ability to deliver affordable housing and significantly contributes to environmental sustainability through our product donation program.

After closing our storefronts, our team rallied together to launch an E-commerce platform in just over two weeks. We started by integrating products from 6 of our 12 Habitat ReStore locations. In 2021, we will be working to optimize our customer experience and integrate inventory from all 12 stores online for purchase.

We completed Phase 4 of CentreTowne in Durham

After temporarily closing our build sites in March due to COVID-19, we were able to re-open in May and avoid delaying family move-in dates at CentreTowne by completing Phase 4 of 5 of construction.

Families were already feeling stressed and anxious navigating COVID-19 restrictions while living in substandard housing. The added stress of having to push back notice with their landlords and make alternative schooling arrangements was the last thing we wanted our soon to be Habitat homeowners to face.

After getting our build sites up and running safely with new protocols, we resumed construction in May. Our volunteer Crew Leaders and build site staff worked around the clock to get the homes built and ready for families to move in before the end of last year, allowing our four newest Habitat homeowners to experience the holidays together in their new homes.

We were there for our Habitat homeowners through COVID-19

house story
Mother and daughter

When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, we immediately reached out to our hundreds of Habitat homeowners to remind families of our commitment to offering temporary mortgage relief. Remarkably, only 8% of our Habitat homeowners requested mortgage reductions – a testament to their resiliency.

When COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, we found new ways to connect with prospective partner families, processing hundreds of homeowner applications received since March.

A unique element of the Habitat homeownership model is what we call sweat equity, where families volunteer 500 hours with the organization. The Habitat GTA Family Services team came up with a creative solution to put forward new projects and initiatives that future Habitat homeowners could do from home, navigating a safe path forward for families to complete their hours. Some families shared their unique story about coping with their current living conditions through COVID-19 restrictions. Others shared beloved family recipes to be included in a Habitat for Humanity cookbook. We also gave families the option to come up with their own ideas about how they can do their sweat equity from home.

Maya and Nicole, a mother-daughter duo who will be moving into one of our future projects proposed the idea of making cloth masks for Habitat volunteers.

“We have been sewing masks to donate to local healthcare facilities as well as family and friends,” said Nicole.  “My husband cuts the fabric and measures and ties the elastics, and I do the sewing. We decided to make 100 cloth masks to distribute to Habitat volunteers as part of our sweat equity.”

Our partners were there for us

As important as it was to make ourselves available for our Habitat homeowners when the pandemic first hit, we knew that we needed our donor partners to step up too. Like many of our supporters, The Whitmer Trudel Foundation understands the importance of addressing the need for safe, decent, affordable housing. Especially at a time when it was needed the most.

Last summer, the foundation increased their philanthropic investment by 5x their annual contribution that they have been gifting to Habitat GTA since 2017. The donor understood and acknowledged that the pandemic has put extreme pressure on charities in 2020, and that they were seeing the challenges across the spectrum of causes, which inspired them to increase their giving.

This is just one of the many stories of generosity that came out of our community in 2020.

We took the Habitat Build Day experience online

At home office work
Year in Review 2020

Last year put us in a position where we couldn’t bring our corporate and community partners out to volunteer with us on our build sites. In the face of this challenge, we went back to the drawing board to figure out how we can engage our partners through work from home orders.

Last October, we launched our first ever every one build, a virtual four-week event to support local Habitat homebuilding projects across the country. It was inspiring to see our community step up and participate in at-home challenges and share videos to help bring the build site experience online.

12 local Habitats participated in raising a combined $60,000+ to continue helping families build strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable homeownership.

22 Habitat GTA families moved into their homes in Liberty Village

Habitat GTA partnered with Cityzen Developments to receive 22 units to operate as Habitat Homes at 30 Ordnance St., a new condo development in Toronto’s Liberty Village. This partnership represented the most units we’ve ever received through a developer partnership project.

The Habitat homeowners at Ordnance took occupancy of their new homes last summer. Thanks to their resiliency and the accommodations made by Cityzen, our families were able to move in before the second wave of COVID-19 hit.

Here is what one of our Habitat homeowners shared about her family’s experience:

“Moving homes is never easy. But in a COVID-19 world, where staying home is the safest option and maintaining physical distance is the expected norm, moving becomes even more challenging. So on the day of the move, my stress levels were running high.

But at the end of the day, when all said and done, the city’s breathtaking view, the excitement of my hard-to-please teenager, a brand new home that I have the privilege to raise my child in, and the knowledge that I already have a community with other Habitat partner families nearby made it a very satisfying experience.

It is true that a new home is not the end-game; the life that is lived in that home is. But the day of this move was a significant milestone for me. When I recall the moment I had arrived in Canada four years ago with my entire life in three suitcases, and then I look at myself now, I feel I have come a long way. And for that I have immense gratitude.”

-Habitat homeowner at Ordnance

We zeroed-in on diversity & inclusion

2020 has reinforced that there is a lot more work to be done to create a just and equal society. Our heightened awareness of the existence of systemic racism has made our societal shortcomings more apparent. At Habitat GTA, our connection to our mission deepened around the notion that racialized populations are disproportionally impacted by the lack of affordable housing options in our region. In addition to our work in the community, Habitat GTA’s CEO, Ene Underwood, took the Black North Pledge on behalf of our organization, and joined the Black North Initiative’s Housing Committee.

We also looked internally to renew our focus on our guiding principle of Grounded in Inclusion. One of the initiatives we undertook was a staff book club to open a space for dialogue on race. We started by reading “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Iluo to help facilitate some difficult and honest discussions. 

Our guiding principle of Grounded in Inclusion is about so many things, with race being at the forefront in 2020. However, whether talking about race, sexual orientation, disability or faith, all dimensions of diversity strengthens us, and we’re fortunate to learn through each other’s lived experiences.

Here we go 2021!



2175 Keele Street, Toronto

159 Wellesley Street E


159 Wellesley St E, Toronto

Lumina Emerald City


36 Forest Manor Rd, Toronto

423 Old Weston Rd. - Reunion Crossing


383 Old Weston Rd, Toronto

As we look ahead, we’re excited about what 2021 has in store. There will be 10 active projects which are set to get underway that include a mix of Habitat builds and Habitat homes delivered through developer partnerships. Each project will be at different stages throughout the year – from site work, volunteers on-site, and families receiving keys to their finished homes. In total, the impact of our 2021 projects will be 166 working families in need of a decent place to live becoming Habitat homeowners.

2020 will go down in history in so many ways, but at Habitat GTA, we’re thankful to have been able to stay true to our mission of helping families build strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable homeownership.



VISIONARIES - $150,000 +
Ed and Fran Clark & Clark Family Foundation
The Hawkins Family
Whitmer Trudel Foundation
GROUNDBREAKERS - $80,000 - $149,999
The Johnston Family Foundation
INNOVATORS - $50,000 - $79,999
Peter, Catherine, Michael & Graham Clark
ARCHITECTS - $25,000 - $49,999
Bruce and Erminia Johannson
Ian Taylor
Kate Subak
Martin Blake
Tracy and Bruce Simpson
DESIGNERS - $10,000 - $24,999
Anne Mackay
Ene Underwood
J. Malcolm Finlay
J.P. Bickell Foundation
Jane Thorson
Jeffrey Ricard
John Laing Charitable Trust
K. Erik Parnoja
Linda Hurlburt
Linda Young Foundation
Lisa Blake
Margaret Zeidler
Schachter Family Fund at Toronto Foundation
The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation
The Harold E. Ballard Foundation
CONTRACTORS - $5,000 - $9,999
Allison Wolfe
Bruce  Johnson
Catherine Waite
Christianne Laframboise
David  Ogden
Dawn Tattle Family Foundation
Dean Summerville
Donald  Johnson
Gail  Drummond
Hershel Harris
Jim Garner
Joy Gray-Donald
Margaret Martin
Mary Johnson
Paul and Karen Sasaki
Peter McCawley
Ralph Monkman
Robert Dorrance
Susan VanDeVelde-Coke
Valerie Christie
Wayne Dempsey
William and Ruth Perratt
FRAMERS - $2,500 - $4,999
Aida Tammer
Atkinson Family Fund at the Strategic Charitable Foundation
Barbara Volk
Belinda Tang
Christine Pacini
D Kerr Trust Account
Gail Weiler
Geraldine Montgomery
Greg Nevison
John Blewett
Marsha Copp
Sharon Vogel
BRICKLAYERS - $1,000 - $2,499
Alex and Carolyn Drummond Foundation
Alex Kuresh
Alexander Lowden
Andy O’Breslin
Ann Macnaughton
Anne Marie Lees
Anne-Marie Thomas
Barbara Wellman
Barbara Williams
Benefaction Foundation
Bob Blazevski
Brian Budd
Cathryn E. Cranston
Christina  Politis
Christopher Jones
Claus Lenk
David M. Sauve
Deborah A. Ivison
Dennis Moir
Diane Grundy
Donalda Kelk
Edward G. Thompson
Elsie Morrin
Emeka Ubani
Francois Desaulniers
Gabriel Eidelman
Gael and Rick Ross
Gail Macnaughton
Gale M. Kelly
Helena Friesen
James Lampard
Janey Law
Jean and David Bacon
John Coke
John Giusti
John H. Quinn
Joshua Matthews
Judith Fenton
Karen von Hahn
Karla and Frank Haslam
Kathy Garrison
Kenneth Edwards
Kevin Burke Foundation at the Toronto Foundation
Kevin Purkiss
Lakhvinder Singh Rakhraj
Linda E. Punnett
Lorraine Huinink
Mark Hallman
Martha MacNeil
Martin E. Grundy
Mary Beth Currie
Mary Griffiths
Michael J. Kelly
Michael Lee
Michael Springgay
Michelle Vitale
Nathan and Lily Silver Family Foundation
Niall Murphy
Nora Farrell
Rae Aust
Rinu Kaur Rakhraj
Rita  Grave
Rita Ciccolini
Roland Bertin
Ronald Shishido
Rowena B. Van Seters
Sandra L. Green
Shannen Friel
Tarun Khandelwal
Ted M. Campbell
Toronto Community Foundation
Valerie Shuttleworth
Vanessa Morgan
Yolanda Dasselaar
Anonymous (2)
CARPENTERS - $500 - $999
Abbas Kassam
Adwoa Buahene
Amanda Stapells
Anna Maria Tremonti
Anna Strom-Olsen
Anthony Duerksen
Anup Bhattacharya
Asif Virani
Ben Cormier
Betty Price
Bob Johnston
Bojan Bujak
Brian and Annalee Schnurr
Brooks Barnett
Chimp: Charitable Impact Foundation ( Canada)
Christina Kavanagh
Cindy & Marino Hammett & Valerio
Colin Parsons
D. Ross Williams
David Visentin
David Wunker
Diana  King
Dina Oakie
Donald McGillivray
Ed J. Bryant
Ed Nowina
Elisabeth Meixner
Elizabeth Cohen
Elizabeth Crosbie
Elizabeth Hartford
Elizabeth Ivison
Elly Kaas
Farah Hussain
Frances Price
Frank Goodman
Gaetano Franco
Gemma Pastor
George Smith
Gerry Keenan
Gopal Bansal
Gordon Lok
Grace Tse
Greg Tang-Yuk
Hamid Hussain
Helen Ehlers
Ivan Pinto
Jack and Shayla Goldstein
Jannie Henkelman
Jean Oyono
Jennifer Cosburn
Jeremy Lenk
Joan Nordemann
John and Joanne Armstrong
John Davies
John Kean
John Knowlton
Joseph Curry
Joshua Benard and Andreia Moretzsohn
Karen Visentin
Ken & Shirley Fung Charitable Fund
Ken Ryfa
Kim Michasiw
Larry And Ann Dunlop
Leo Hartford
Lindsay Campbell
Louis Bannet
Louise Fast
Margaret Bullock
Margaret Mee
Margaret Procter
Maria A. Blackmore
Marie Barbara
Marion  Asao
Mark Folkers
Mary Bannet
Michael Ryder
Nancy Bardecki
Natalie Nash
Noah Genner
Patricia Zrihen
Patrick & Ramona Cronin
Paul Pellettier
Rahul Suri
Robin Lee
Rowena Ridout
Sean Power
Sharon Herman
Shirley M. Johnson
Susan Atkinson
Suzanna Cohen
Teresa Eng
Tilla Moffat
Todd Robinson
Tolga Hocanin
Trevor Lloyd
Anonymous (6)