GTA non-profits experiencing increasing demand for services: report

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.

The report examines the challenges community organizations are facing as they battle 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 per cent 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.

Read the full ‘Greater Toronto Non-Profit Community Space Survey

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