In the midst of Toronto’s affordable housing crisis, one church is offering a rent-subsidized living space to young adults in its community. Eglinton St. George’s United turned a house previously occupied by its now-retired caretaker into Flourish House, a below-market rate apartment for tenants in their 20s.
The rent is set at $750 per housemate (market rate is around $1,000), and the goal is to create an intentional community for young Christians, where instead of simply sharing space, the roommates also plan common activities including meals, spiritual practice, downtime and outreach to the broader community.
Rev. Sarah Chapman, the church’s next generation and growth minister, pitched the idea to the congregation as an experiment. “The church had wanted to sell the house because they would get over a million dollars for it, but were brave to try this,” she says. “Noticing there aren’t as many young adults in our congregation, we asked, ‘how can we reach out to that generation?’”
Chapman selected three tenants already connected to the United Church through the GO Project, a youth mission program. They moved in on Sept. 1, and Chapman now meets with them weekly to provide guidance and set personal and collective goals, and to develop a non-resident stream for the house that will engage other young adults to participate. Plans so far include a housewarming party and regular Wednesday dinners. “It meets young adults where they are at instead of inviting them to something the church is doing,” says Chapman.
Thomas Burton, one of the new tenants, recently returned to Canada after finishing a master’s degree in choral conducting at the University of Michigan. Now a church musician at Munn’s United in Oakville, he connected with Chapman and was immediately intrigued by the intentional community idea. “I think in a big city like Toronto it can be really easy to feel isolated,” he says. “It’s a great way to immediately be connected with like-minded folks.”
This story first appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of Broadview with the title “Church offers young people affordable housing.”
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