Tag Archives: legacy

“We wanted to do the impossible—fit three families under one roof”: How one big brood is weathering the pandemic in their Markham home

Top from left to right: Pak Hung Ho, Roger How Cho Hee, and Christine How Cho Hee Bottom from left to right: Eric How Cho Hee, Charlotte How-Fang and Li Wen Fang

Before Covid-19, Eric How Cho Hee, an IT consultant, and Li Wen Fang, a social worker and psychotherapist, ambitiously decided to build a grand family home in Markham for themselves, their parents and an uncle. Their friends thought the well-meaning but wacky idea would never work. But as it happens, living in one giant 7,000-square-foot household bubble is smart when you need each other most.

Eric: In early 2017, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s so I thought it would be best to move in with my parents. I owned the house where they lived in Markham, and we were going back-and-forth frequently to visit each other every week, anyway.

Li Wen: We wanted to do what seemed like the impossible: fit three families under one roof. My parents spend most of their time in Australia with my brother, but they would visit Canada occasionally for long periods before the pandemic, so we wanted to include space for them, too.

Li Wen’s home office is directly across from the front door

Eric: At the time, Li Wen and I lived in an 1,800-square-foot side-split nearby for six years. We liked the area, but the house was nowhere near big enough for our new needs. In September 2017, we sold the mortgage-free house my parents were living in for more than what we paid for and used the money to raze our place and build a new multi-generational home. We rented a house while our new one was being built. The 7,000 square-foot update by Solares Architecture would have enough room for us, our two year old, Charlotte, our four parents and Li Wen’s 70-year-old uncle, Pak Hung Ho.

Li Wen: My uncle Pak took care of me when I immigrated to Canada in 2001, and now that he’s getting older, I wanted to return the favour. My friends weren’t optimistic about the idea—most people choose to live apart from their extended family. But we ignored the naysayers and plunged right in.

The dining room, living room and kitchen were designed as one large space, so the family can hang out and enjoy meals together. The quirky fireplace is by Stûv
The double-height loft space is one half floor up from the main level. It’s also Charlotte’s preferred play area

Eric: When plans were submitted to the committee of adjustment to apply for variances, one neighbour speaking against our application suggested we needed such a big home to run an Airbnb business. Our architects decided to submit a finished plan and it was available for everyone to see.

Li Wen: Our trick to making it work was to ensure everyone has their own private space carved into the plan. We wanted each area to feel like its own cushy apartment—with a staircase and elevator connecting the halves. We asked for heated floors and shower benches for the older set. And a 17-foot-long pool and sauna in the basement.

Charlotte is a regular at the basement swim spa. She’s a natural at wading in the water

Eric: Li Wen, Charlotte and I moved in in October 2019 while other areas of the house were still being worked on. The rest of the household joined us in November, once the house was in a more finished state.

Li Wen: We hired Renee Godin of Interiors by Renee, who sourced all of the furniture and oversaw the decor, which was helpful in such a large, segmented home. She suggested adding colours and patterns because the house felt too white and sterile. But the bright orange Blue Star oven in the kitchen is Eric’s doing. He’s the cook in the family and he wanted something nice.

Uncle Pak is set up to host morning tea in his section of the home

Eric: My wife and I pay for all of the utilities, housekeeping and property taxes. Before the pandemic, my parents and Li Wen’s uncle would buy the additional items or other foods they needed. But we all share. We don’t divvy up the bills and we don’t charge them any rent. I go buy all groceries, and everyone takes turns cooking the various meals. I used to browse and see what’s on sale when I went to the store. Now it’s more focused. I grab and go. I’m out in less than an hour.

Li Wen: Uncle Pak’s area is dubbed “the tea room” because that’s where the family starts the day, with a tea ritual. My parents have an amazing wing on the other side of our bedroom; they are living in Australia now but that could change. Despite the endless space to wander, we mostly kick back together in the kitchen. A wall of large patio doors bring a lot of natural light into the kitchen, and they slide open easily for the seniors to access the patio and backyard. The 17,000-square-foot backyard has allowed the seniors to get fresh air in safe surroundings as the weather has gotten better.

A floor-to-ceiling window looks out at a portion of the expansive backyard
Patio doors slide open for easy access from the main level

Eric: The house isn’t complete yet. Since November 2019, we have slowly been adding finishing touches, like window coverings and missing cranks plus drywall touch ups. But we consider ourselves very lucky to be living in our new home. The combination of common space and private space has allowed us to weather the pandemic rather well. That’s not to say there is no tension, but that’s to be expected even during the best of times.

Li Wen and Eric’s master suite has a windsor bedframe and wallcovering, which gives it a woodsy cabin vibe
A view of Eric and Li Wen’s balcony from the backyard

Li Wen: One of my friends hasn’t seen her mom in two months because they didn’t allow visitors in her long-term care facility. I feel lucky everyone is together and safe at home. Eric and I are both working from here. My home office is directly across from the front door. It doesn’t have a separate entrance, and I haven’t seen patients here, but I do talk to them over video conference. Before the nice weather, in the early days of the lockdown, Charlotte would constantly knock on my home-office door during my calls with clients. That was tricky, but despite the disturbances, I’m happy to not have to commute to Scarborough every day like I used to.

Eric: I had negotiated working from home twice a week before the pandemic, so shifting my routine to full-time at home hasn’t changed too much professionally. Our built-in babysitter brigade takes turns watching Charlotte as she sprints around the backyard, where she collects branches and plays with her new mini-kitchen. She also has a small slide and a water and sand station.

Li Wen: Charlotte has become the main source of entertainment for all the adults. Before this, she was in daycare most days and we didn’t have that much time with her.

Charlotte’s bedroom has mini midcentury-modern furniture and a toddler-size trundle bed

Eric: The different areas of the house have helped us keep our daughter entertained, too. She uses the swim spa regularly. She has become pretty good and comfortable at wading in the water.

Li Wen: Eric has nurtured a love of baking, churning out four to five loaves a week. He makes farmer bread and baguettes. We used to buy bread from Longo’s, but nothing is fresher than this.Sign up for our newsletterFor the latest on Toronto during the reopening, subscribe to This CitySign me up!

Eric: Every two weeks, we also get a box of produce and meat delivered from a farm. Still, the seniors really miss going for dim sum each Sunday. And they have a touch of cabin fever, despite all the room to move about and the indoor pool.

Li Wen: To combat the boredom, my father-in-law, Roger, does weekly Zoom meetings with his geriatric day program. They exercise for 20 minutes and then talk about the news, but it’s hard because he can’t hear very well. Other seniors have attempted to boldly escape. One day, I found my mother-in-law, Christine, sneaking out. She said she was going for a walk, and that she wanted to start the car so the battery wouldn’t die. I think she might have been headed to one of her favourite spots: the supermarket. They are not as nervous as us—they’ve seen so much in their lives.

Source: Toronto Life – BY IRIS BENAROIA |

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENEE GODIN |  JUNE 19, 2020

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Black groups seek to launch credit union

Adaoma Patterson, president of the Jamaican Canadian Association, one of three entities behind the new bid to bring back a Black-owned financial institution.

Black groups seek to launch credit union

Toronto’s Black population could once again have its own financial institution if a trio of African Canadian organizations can muster enough community support to get the proposed Pan-African Credit Union off the ground.

Although the proposed institution is not exclusive to people of colour, the goal is to provide an alternate banking organization that better serves the Black community in the Greater Toronto Area, and eventually, the rest of the country, said Adaoma Patterson, president of the Jamaican Canadian Association, one of three entities behind the project.

“It’s a lofty goal,” Patterson said. “Well overdue, though.

The group has set an ambitious target for the credit union to open within two years.

“We hope that we can get through all of the stages to launch by the summer of 2021,” she said.

The main aim is to provide financial services to Blacks who have been traditionally under-served or un-banked, she said.

“People have been asking for it for a while,” she said. “This piece was the next logical step.”

While families will be the core of the credit union’s membership, making investments in Black-owned businesses is also key, she said.

 

“The community has always talked about economic empowerment,” Patterson said. “It enables all of the other conversations when you have that economic ownership.”

Running a credit union isn’t unfamiliar turf for the JCA, which operated one, that puttered along before it folded in the mid-1990s.

The Star reported on the demise of the organization in 1995.

Prompted by concerns for members, the Deposit Insurance Corporation of Ontario, which insured individual deposits up to $60,000, assumed control of the Caribbean Canadian African (Ontario) Credit Union on Aug. 31, 1995. Continuing operating losses were cited by the Ministry of Finance, according to Bill Foster, an insurance corporation vice-president, who replaced the board as administrator of the organization.

“This credit union has no reserves and is in a deficit position. Its liabilities exceed its assets,” said Foster at the time.

A lawyer for the former board members said, in early August, 1995, that the only problem was the credit union had spent money anticipating $750,000 in funding from the government and had only received $370,000 of it.

Plans to revive the credit union started to regain some life in 2016, after Patterson assumed the presidency of the JCA.

“We were tackling a lot of other things, but it seemed like the financial institution piece was missing,” she said.

Patterson soon discovered that the JCA wasn’t alone in championing the return of a black-focused financial institution. The Lions Circle African Mens’ Association, also had an interest in establishing a credit union of its own.

It made sense to join forces, she said.

The idea started gaining steam, after the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce, which launched in 2019, joined the partnership. A steering committee, including people from financial backgrounds, has been meeting weekly, in recent months.

Andria Barrett, president of the Black Chamber of Commerce, said she often fields complaints from small business owners about difficulties in accessing financing from traditional banks.

“I’ve heard countless stories from Black business owners, who have made some money, but can’t get a business credit card or a loan, so we have to create our own,” she said.

Still in its infancy, the group is gathering feedback, via an online survey, to test the community’s appetite for the kind of financial institution they want.

Once the survey closes in March, there will be a clearer indication of whether the concept has enough backing to move forward.

“We have been working towards getting regulatory approval,” Barrett said. The chamber is hosting Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, next week Thursday, to talk about this and other economic issues.

“We’ve been going to different locations and actually promoting the survey,” she said. “The response has been good overall.”

Patterson said early research revealed a daunting road ahead, as “not many cultural credit unions are being approved in Ontario.”

Provincial regulators must be convinced that a sufficient cohort of people will put their money into such a scheme.

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It’s one of the very reasons the former credit union failed in the 1990s.

“You have to show that people are actually willing to put some money into this as a startup,” she said.

In addition to providing financial services, the new credit union will offer financial education on topics from budgeting to wealth-building, Patterson said.

Entrepreneur and philanthropist, Denham Jolly, is already hailing the potential advent of a credit union as a way to break the financial chains holding back the next wave of entrepreneurs.

“It’s not easy for a Black person to get financing of any nature,” said Jolly, renowned for starting Canada’s first Black-owned radio station FLOW 93.5.

He said Black people have long struggled to walk into a bank and “be taken seriously.”

The former credit union, which went under in the 1990s, had a business plan that required it to hold $5 million in assets by 1997, wrote Cecil Foster, a journalist, author and scholar, in an opinion piece, printed in the Star, in 1995.

Jolly bemoans the missteps that led to the demise of the former credit union, but said that’s water under the bridge.

“I would like to be on the board of governors,” Jolly said about lending a hand on a new credit union.

Foster wrote about efforts by the Black Business and Professional Association and the JCA to to save the old credit union, including a membership drive to get more Black groups and individuals to open accounts.

Barrett said the past will help to guide the current application.

“We see the need and we learn from history,” she said.

Oana Branzei, associate professor at Western University’s Ivey School of Business, said there is a persistent disadvantage minorities, especially those of colour, face, and it holds them back from things such as business startups.

“It is not as severe as the U.K or U.S, but it’s certainly a problem,” she said.

Branzei said specialized credit unions are a catalyst for people of colour to bank in a dignified way.

“When this is a movement from within the community, it feels right,” she said.

Branzei said rejecting a community-driven effort, given the discrimination that has taken place, will be politically hard to do.

Source: Thu., Feb. 20, 2020
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