Community land trusts: a response to the housing crisis – Community Housing Transformation Centre – Centre de transformation du logement communautaire
9 Nov, 2023

Community land trusts: a response to the housing crisis

Community land trusts: a response to the housing crisis
By Centre

At a time when housing security is being compromised by causes that have been around for far too long, and an increasing number of Canadians are losing their homes to soaring prices and renovations, community land trusts (CLTs) are providing solutions. Communities across the country are coming together to purchase properties through land trusts. By acquiring and owning land, these nonprofits remove it from the speculative market and dedicate it to community interests in perpetuity. 

Canadians need to rethink their relationship with individual private property if we are to tackle the housing crisis. Collective ownership models play a key role in tomorrow’s housing ecosystem and should be given greater prominence – which is why the Centre was delighted to support the first national CLT conference, the CLT Summit, held October 20th-22nd, 2023, in Toronto.

Organized by the Canadian Network of Community Land Trusts, the conference brought together over 100 delegates representing CLTs, funders, policymakers, and other housing professionals to share visions and exchange solutions proposed by this model. During the three days of discussions, the Centre presented solutions for the transformation of the community housing sector, based on the collective ownership and management.

In his address entitled “From Community Housing to Housing the Community,” Stéphan Corriveau, Executive Director of the Centre, presented an insightful perspective on housing, highlighting the role of community housing.

He discussed housing financing policies, pointing out that the system mainly favours private and for-profit landlords. The funding allocated to community housing is considerably lower despite significant needs. The low proportion (just 3.5%) of community housing stock in Canada is a consequence of this, and yet, these property assets could be used to benefit the whole community.

Corriveau proposed strategies for overcoming the crisis, including the idea that the community housing sector should hold 20% of the entire Canadian rental housing market.

Impact projects to accelerate the creation of affordable housing and social inclusion. 

The strength of the CLT model lies in the harmonious synergy between its key elements: the community, the land, and the trust. Our history has plenty of examples of populations driven to the periphery of urban areas, out of their neighbourhoods and homes, because of the trend of attracting wealthier social classes and real estate developers. CLTs were created to reverse the tendency towards evictions and renovations and to help promote economic and social inclusion.

The Centre has supported several CLTs, including the first to be created in northern Canada, the Northern Community Land Trust. Through this project, 32 new permanent affordable housing units will be built in Whitehorse, Yukon.

In Kensington, a Centre grant contributed to the first acquisition and preservation of affordable housing by the Kensington Market Community Land Trust.

In Kensington, a Centre grant contributed to the first acquisition and preservation of affordable housing by the Kensington Market Community Land Trust. The organization began by acquiring and preserving a 13-unit affordable rental housing building that would otherwise have been turned into short-term rentals. The grant enabled them to develop the organizational structures, governance, and tools needed to acquire and manage the units. It contributed to the establishment of a sustainable organizational infrastructure.

We also supported the Brome-Missisquoi Community Land Trust. Through its creation, Solutions Immobilier Solidaire aims to develop and support the growth of community real estate for all, in response to the shortage of affordable housing.

More recently, as part Nova Scotia’s Community Housing Growth Fund (CHGF), we also supported the establishment of a community land trust focused on rural Nova Scotia. Its mission is to acquire properties and transform them into affordable housing. Dedicated to Black communities, DownTheMarsh Community Land Trust addresses both housing needs and deeper concerns of social and cultural preservation.

A new wave of Canadian land trusts?

The community land trust model in Canada has evolved over time. Initially, it was primarily rural, aimed at protecting and conserving land. It was not until the 1980s that Canadian CLTs became urban and housing oriented. 

Two distinct “generations” of Canadian urban CLTs can be identified. The first focused on land acquisition for housing construction. It was driven by cooperative initiatives and aimed to compensate for the lack of support from public authorities.

The second generation emerged around 2012 in response to the growing pressures of gentrification in the urban areas of cities like Toronto and Vancouver. These cities were the scene of speculation, rapidly rising housing prices and increased constraints on already tight affordable rental housing markets.

Recently, the model has been replicated across the country in urban centres, suburbs, and rural areas alike. A new generation is exploring the possibilities, reinforcing this trend of solidarity, and paving the way for a new wave of CLT development. The Canadian Community Land Trust Network, which aims to bring CLTs together to share information, collaborate, and support the strategic development of community land trusts, today includes 40 emerging and established trusts nationwide.

The main objective remains to acquire, develop, and manage permanently affordable housing, land, and other assets, thereby helping create prosperous communities and counter the housing crisis.

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