Issue 6
ISSUE
STORY TYPE
AUTHOR
10
PERSPECTIVE
June 17, 2024
We Need More Than Fewer, Better Things
by Deb Chachra
10
PERSPECTIVE
June 3, 2024
An Ode to Garages
by Charlie Weak
10
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 28, 2024
In Search of Domestic Kintsugi
by Edwin Heathcote
10
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 13, 2024
The Perils of the Landscapes We Make
by Karrie Jacobs
10
PERSPECTIVE
May 6, 2024
Using Simple Tools as a Radical Act of Independence
by Jarrett Fuller
9
PERSPECTIVE
April 29, 2024
Why Can’t I Just Go Home?
by Eva Hagberg
9
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
April 22, 2024
Why Did Our Homes Stop Evolving?
by George Kafka
9
ROUNDTABLE
April 8, 2024
Spaces Where the Body Is a Vital Force
by Tiffany Jow
9
BOOK REVIEW
April 1, 2024
Tracing the Agency of Women as Users and Experts of Architecture
by Mimi Zeiger
9
PERSPECTIVE
March 25, 2024
Are You Sitting in a Non-Place?
by Mzwakhe Ndlovu
9
ROUNDTABLE
March 11, 2024
At Home, Connecting in Place
by Marianela D’Aprile
9
PERSPECTIVE
March 4, 2024
VALIE EXPORT’s Tactical Urbanism
by Alissa Walker
8
PERSPECTIVE
February 26, 2024
What the “Whole Earth Catalog” Taught Me About Building Utopias
by Anjulie Rao
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 19, 2024
How a Run-Down District in London Became a Model for Neighborhood Revitalization
by Ellen Peirson
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 12, 2024
In Brooklyn, Housing That Defies the Status Quo
by Gideon Fink Shapiro
8
PERSPECTIVE
February 5, 2024
That “Net-Zero” Home Is Probably Living a Lie
by Fred A. Bernstein
8
PERSPECTIVE
January 22, 2024
The Virtue of Corporate Architecture Firms
by Kate Wagner
8
PERSPECTIVE
January 16, 2024
How Infrastructure Shapes Us
by Deb Chachra
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
January 8, 2024
The Defiance of Desire Lines
by Jim Stephenson
7
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
December 18, 2023
This House Is Related to You and to Your Nonhuman Relatives
by Sebastián López Cardozo
7
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
December 11, 2023
What’s the Point of the Plus Pool?
by Ian Volner
7
BOOK REVIEW
December 4, 2023
The Extraordinary Link Between Aerobics and Architecture
by Jarrett Fuller
7
PERSPECTIVE
November 27, 2023
Architecture That Promotes Healing and Fortifies Us for Action
by Kathryn O’Rourke
7
objects and things
November 6, 2023
How to Design for Experience
by Diana Budds
7
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
October 30, 2023
The Meaty Objects at Marta
by Jonathan Griffin
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
October 23, 2023
How Oliver Grabes Led Braun Back to Its Roots
by Marianela D’Aprile
6
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
October 16, 2023
Can Adaptive Reuse Fuel Equitable Revitalization?
by Clayton Page Aldern
6
PERSPECTIVE
October 9, 2023
What’s the Point of a Tiny Home?
by Mimi Zeiger
6
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
October 2, 2023
A Book Where Torn-Paper Blobs Convey Big Ideas
by Julie Lasky
6
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
September 24, 2023
The Architecture of Doing Nothing
by Edwin Heathcote
6
BOOK REVIEW
September 18, 2023
What the “Liebes Look” Says About Dorothy Liebes
by Debika Ray
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
September 11, 2023
Roy McMakin’s Overpowering Simplicity
by Eva Hagberg
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
September 5, 2023
Minimalism’s Specific Objecthood, Interpreted by Designers of Today
by Glenn Adamson
5
ROUNDTABLE
August 28, 2023
How Joan Jonas and Eiko Otake Navigate Transition
by Siobhan Burke
5
OBJECTS AND THINGS
August 21, 2023
The Future-Proofing Work of Design-Brand Archivists
by Adrian Madlener
5
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
August 14, 2023
Can a Church Solve Canada’s Housing Crisis?
by Alex Bozikovic
5
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
August 7, 2023
In Search of Healing, Helen Cammock Confronts the Past
by Jesse Dorris
5
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
July 31, 2023
What Dead Malls, Office Parks, and Big-Box Stores Can Do for Housing
by Ian Volner
5
PERSPECTIVE
July 24, 2023
A Righteous Way to Solve “Wicked” Problems
by Susan Yelavich
5
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
July 17, 2023
Making a Mess, with a Higher Purpose
by Andrew Russeth
5
ROUNDTABLE
July 10, 2023
How to Emerge from a Starchitect’s Shadow
by Cynthia Rosenfeld
4
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
June 26, 2023
There Is No One-Size-Fits-All in Architecture
by Marianela D’Aprile
4
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
June 19, 2023
How Time Shapes Amin Taha’s Unconventionally Handsome Buildings
by George Kafka
4
SHOW AND TELL
June 12, 2023
Seeing and Being Seen in JEB’s Radical Archive of Lesbian Photography
by Svetlana Kitto
4
PERSPECTIVE
June 5, 2023
In Built Environments, Planting Where It Matters Most
by Karrie Jacobs
3
PERSPECTIVE
May 30, 2023
On the Home Front, a Latine Aesthetic’s Ordinary Exuberance
by Anjulie Rao
3
PERSPECTIVE
May 21, 2023
For a Selfie (and Enlightenment), Make a Pilgrimage to Bridge No. 3
by Alexandra Lange
3
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 8, 2023
The Building Materials of the Future Might Be Growing in Your Backyard
by Marianna Janowicz
3
BOOK REVIEW
May 1, 2023
Moving Beyond the “Fetishisation of the Forest”
by Edwin Heathcote
2
ROUNDTABLE
April 24, 2023
Is Craft Still Synonymous with the Hand?
by Tiffany Jow
2
OBJECTS AND THINGS
April 17, 2023
A Historian Debunks Myths About Lacemaking, On LaceTok and IRL
by Julie Lasky
2
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
April 10, 2023
How AI Helps Architects Design, and Refine, Their Buildings
by Ian Volner
2
SHOW AND TELL
April 3, 2023
Merging Computer and Loom, a Septuagenarian Artist Weaves Her View of the World
by Francesca Perry
1
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
March 27, 2023
Words That Impede Architecture, According to Reinier de Graaf
by Osman Can Yerebakan
1
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
March 20, 2023
Painting With Plaster, Monica Curiel Finds a Release
by Andrew Russeth
1
PERSPECTIVE
March 13, 2023
Rules and Roles in Life, Love, and Architecture
by Eva Hagberg
1
Roundtable
March 6, 2023
A Design Movement That Pushes Beyond Architecture’s Limitations
by Tiffany Jow
0
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 7, 2023
To Improve the Future of Public Housing, This Architecture Firm Looks to the Past
by Ian Volner
0
PERSPECTIVE
February 7, 2023
The Radical Potential of “Prime Objects”
by Glenn Adamson
0
SHOW AND TELL
February 20, 2023
Xiyadie’s Queer Cosmos
by Xin Wang
0
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
February 13, 2023
How Michael J. Love’s Subversive Tap Dancing Steps Forward
by Jesse Dorris
0
SHOW AND TELL
February 7, 2023
Finding Healing and Transformation Through Good Black Art
by Folasade Ologundudu
0
BOOK REVIEW
February 13, 2023
How Stephen Burks “Future-Proofs” Craft
by Francesca Perry
0
ROUNDTABLE
February 27, 2023
Making Use of End Users’ Indispensable Wisdom
by Tiffany Jow
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
The New Lessons Architect Steven Harris Learns from Driving Old Porsches
by Jonathan Schultz
0
PERSPECTIVE
February 7, 2023
The Day Architecture Stopped
by Kate Wagner
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
The Overlooked Potential of Everyday Objects
by Adrian Madlener
0
ROUNDTABLE
February 7, 2023
A Conversation About Generalists, Velocity, and the Source of Innovation
by Tiffany Jow
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
Using a Fungi-Infused Paste, Blast Studio Turns Trash Into Treasure
by Natalia Rachlin
Untapped is published by the design company Henrybuilt.
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
08.14.2023
Can a Church Solve Canada’s Housing Crisis?

Kindred Works offers an ambitious model for transforming religious and other sites into homes—and for serving its community—at scale.

Rendering of an old church with a new building behind it
St. Luke’s Toronto, Kindred Works’s proposal for a 12-story development that includes rental apartments, new community space, and the preservation of a heritage building. (Courtesy KPMB Architects and Studio Sang)


When Parsonage Church went up, in 1876, nobody could have imagined a housing shortage. The land that would become Toronto was sparsely colonized, and the church’s congregation prayed surrounded by farmland. Jump forward a century and a half, and the church, today known as Wexford Heights United Church, is used by several congregations of different denominations.

Now its property could serve a new role in today’s greater Toronto area—a region of six million with a crippling housing shortage and one-bedroom apartments going for $2,500 a month. If all goes to plan, the site will soon see an 11-story tower and two rows of townhouses. It will retain the church’s cemetery and community spaces, and create 100 mixed-income rental units.

But most of the church will be gone. “Our job is about keeping the same principles, not the same architecture,” says Tim Blair, CEO of Kindred Works, the company that’s pursuing the project. “We’re addressing the housing crisis, addressing the climate crisis…. It’s not business and development as usual.” Rather, it’s laying the groundwork for a plausible, stable model for transforming property development, construction, and quality of life for many working- and middle-class Canadians.

Kindred Works is part of a growing sector across North America: one focused on the redevelopment of religious sites for new uses, often with a desire to generate common good in the form of social, environmental, and economic benefits. Between the politicking of the YIMBY (for “yes in my backyard”) crusade and their criticism of NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) locals, this loose movement is sometimes pegged as YIGBY: Yes In God’s Backyard.

Leading a coalition of partners across the country that include nonprofits, private landowners, and communities of faith, Kindred Works aims to build housing for more than 34,000 people in the next 15 years, and it has scaled up. It focuses on creating a balanced financial and social mix of tenants by offering different-sized rental units, at below- and at-market rates. At its office in the 108-year-old former headquarters of the Royal Bank, its staff of 23 is now working on 22 active projects across Canada, totaling 3,300 housing units. The impetus for their work is an issue common to religious congregations, especially churches, across the continent: a dearth of worshippers and a lot of empty floor space.

A row of brick buildings against a blue skin in the snow
Queenswood Commons, a proposed mixture of three-bedroom townhouses and three-story apartments in Orleans, a suburb of Ottawa, Ontario. (Courtesy KPMB Architects and Studio Sang)


The organization began as a development arm of the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination. Inaugurated in 1925, the United Church brought together Methodist, Congregational, and most Presbyterian churches. This many-branched history meant that it had a lot of properties—serving around 2,800 congregations. In the past decade, says Erik Mathiesen, an executive with the church’s national organization, “We realized that the biggest problems our congregations faced were building-related.” As congregations lost members, small and aging groups of congregants were left to manage the real estate. “We are choking on our buildings,” Mathiesen says.

While these churches are often deeply meaningful to locals, several close each year, and frequently come to an unceremonious end. “In the past, sites were often sold,” explains David Constable, Kindred Works’s chief development officer. “Especially in urban centers, the community space would be lost, they’d be turned into condos and the common good would not be served.”

The church saw an opportunity to do better, leveraging its land to downsize worship spaces while providing badly needed housing. (Canada could be short 3.5 million homes by the end of the decade.) At the same time, the church could retain worship space for those congregations that remain, as well as space for daycares, food banks, and social groups.

A rendering of an angular tall building in a city
A mid-rise concept in Hamilton, a city in Ontario. (Courtesy KPMB Architects)


Blair, a seasoned real estate investment banker, joined the United Property Resource Corporation, an independent company founded by the United Church of Canada to bring real estate expertise to communities of faith, in 2020, seeing the opportunity to make social change at scale. While there, he worked closely with Constable to develop a systems-based approach to unlocking the potential of the church’s sites. They soon realized that this model could serve other churches and affordable-housing organizations, and together launched Kindred Works in 2022. 

Its business model has several components. One: Kindred Works will act as the development manager, asset manager, and property manager for most of the properties it develops as a means to ensure the purpose, values, and design of the neighborhoods it creates are retained in the long term. Two: The organization is “purpose-driven,” as Blair puts it. And three: Kindred Works focuses on breadth. By considering a large group of sites at once, the organization hopes to achieve economies of scale in construction and design.

But design itself is a crucial component. Each Kindred Works project aims for architectural excellence and a high level of environmental performance. The company has a long-running relationship with KPMB, a well-regarded Toronto architecture firm: Constable, the chief development officer, spent 16 years there as an architect before joining Kindred Works.

So far, there are 22 projects in active development, on which KPMB is working with Kindred Works as a close partner. Kindred Works aims to have its first groundbreaking later this year, on a site in Orillia, Ontario. “We’re taking a portfolio-wide approach,” says Myriam Tawadros, a senior associate at KPMB. “There are fourteen or fifteen architects working together on projects, and when one detail is settled, they use it for other projects as well.” Lessons learned from a given building will similarly be implemented across sites.

While Kindred Works is creating systematized approaches to its design, approvals, construction, and financing processes, the framework allows each project to reflect its local context. For instance, a downtown Toronto project proposes to wrap a 12-story mixed-used structure, which includes rental apartments, around an 1887 Victorian pile. Townhouses might share a basic layout and façade details; mid-rise buildings will be made with prefabricated wall sections, designed for a high level of energy efficiency.

The project proposed for the Wexford Heights United site includes two blocks of townhouse apartments that run along the edges of the site, facing the 1950s bungalows next door and flanking a community garden. The tower will have a gabled roof, with each building serving as an icon for an idea of home.

Meanwhile, the chapel—the only part of the church to remain, as later additions are to be removed—would become a community space, available for use by neighborhood Girl Guides or book clubs, with a kitchen ready to churn out samosas.

The thread here, Blair says, is thinking about the site as part of the community. “A place like this has always been a piece of the fabric of neighborhoods,” he says. “Often we’re thinking about how we can keep that cohesiveness. Neighborhoods need gathering places [in order] to come together.”

Most developers don’t worry about that sort of thing. Kindred Works has decided that it has to. The organization has set itself several ambitious goals, aiming to address economic, social, and environmental issues at the same time. Among its targets: spending 80 percent of its project costs on local businesses and labor, pricing one-third of its units at below-market rates, getting a four-dollar social return on investment for every dollar it spends, and becoming Net Positive by 2030. “We’re trying to create a model where you can actually create financial sustainability by helping people and planet,” Constable says.

Kindred Works’s proposal for St. James Commons, in the Waterdown neighborhood of Hamilton, Ontario, which includes townhomes and three-story apartments. (Courtesy KPMB Architects and Studio Sang)


How will it accomplish that? In part, through scale and a diverse range of partners. Among its collaborators, Kindred Works is currently teaming up with the Toronto Diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada and with Woodgreen, an independent affordable housing provider in Toronto. Kindred Works and Woodgreen are teaming up on several projects, says Woodgreen vice president Mwarigha, with Kindred Works acting variously as a development manager or full partner. The company benefits from its unusual business structure, large size, and expertise, Mwarigha says. “When you put these together, it starts to be possible to really build.”

Mark Richardson, a volunteer housing advocate in Toronto, is more skeptical. “Kindred Works has the opportunity to professionalize this process” of social purpose housing development “on behalf of the church and other organizations that face similar issues,” he says. “But government puts up so many hurdles to building housing—you need to be able to navigate them.”

That’s because any housing delivered at below-market rates requires some degree of government subsidy. And Richardson points out that the situation in Canada is different than that in the United States. The American Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program has fertilized a large group of not-for-profit housing providers, and the flow of federal funding is fairly predictable. In Canada, affordable housing relies mostly on low-interest government loans. And although the country’s Liberal government has announced that housing is a priority, the agency in charge has been slow to get funding out the door. Kindred Works relies in part on such loans and other low-cost borrowing, but recent rate hikes have demonstrated the risk of such a model.

This, says Blair, is why Kindred Works is trying to make its buildings as close as possible to self-supporting. “We need to generate resources so that we can keep doing this long into the future,” he says. With approximately 70 percent of the homes in each project being rented at market rates, these projects should generate a return, and thus not rely on unpredictable public funding. “We can de-risk the projects by securing the property and taking on the municipal approval risk, but we need to generate the appropriate market risk–adjusted return to attract capital,” Blair says.

But this is easier said than done. The Kindred Works project is a very particular attempt to line up technical, financial, and political tools in the service of housing. The pandemic provided a shock, in the form of higher interest rates—a reminder that this model is relatively fragile.

Still, Blair says, “we know that it takes many people doing many different things to solve the housing crisis.” Kindred Works is forging ahead, he implies, and it will find a way.