4 February 2022

A message from Circle's new CEO

Alia Abaya
Alia Abaya, CEO & GM

Today marks my official first 15 days as the incoming CEO for Circle Community LandTrust. I can’t express the full excitement, honour and privilege I feel right now. My parents immigrated to Toronto from the Philippines in 1975. They first settled in an apartment in Scarborough, and afterwards bought a small semi-detached house near Greenwood between Danforth and Gerrard. When I asked my mom how much they paid for it, she said she thought they paid around $80,000. They were fortunate to come at a time when homes were still affordable for young families with modest incomes. Circle Community LandTrust formed to be a collective vision of protecting, and investing in safe, well-cared for, affordable housing for families that are embedded and scattered among the various vibrant neighbourhoods of the City.

Our vision is first to provide exceptional service as a landlord, by working with our tenants and communities to create places that are brought up to a state of good repair, well cared-for, inclusive, engaged, and where tenants can feel at home in knowing that their affordable homes are protected. What goes along with this, is an opportunity for Circle to explore our role in developing greater economic inclusion for families and communities who have historically been often excluded. Many Circle tenants will see these kinds of experiences reflected in their own. We look forward to working with tenants to collectively identify priorities and create new opportunities for economic, educational, and personal development. 

As you might have read in the Board Announcement of my appointment, my background is in Community Development and Social Finance. What I saw at the intersection of these areas was how the financialization of housing has not only shut out so many first-time homeowners, its also disproportionately increased the wealth gap for families without access to generational wealth, many of which are Black, Indigenous, and Families of Colour.
In my work I’ve also been exploring how to unpack critically, what the role and responsibilities are for “landowners”. I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and my own settler history, and the Land Back movement. What does it mean for us at CCLT to be responsible stewards of these homes, and this land, and how can we work to reconcile any racial, social, financial, and environmental trauma that comes with these places? These past few years have brought forward the urgency of the issues we face around inequality, and now as we determine our “recovery”, there’s an opportunity to use this time to re-create much better practices than we’ve had before.

I’m so looking forward to sharing and exploring these ideas together with tenants, the incredible Circle team, and the broader community, working towards our vision of an intentional land trust that is committed to creating safe, well-maintained, beautiful affordable housing that become love-filled homes for many families for years to come.

Please feel welcome to reach out anytime alia.abaya@circlelandtrust.ca

With thanks,
Alia Abaya

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