Community Land Trust: Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Fix?

June 26, 2013

By Jackie Wong, Tyee Solutions Society.  Originally posted on The Tyee

Thinking back to the eight months he spent last year as one of the more radical Vancouver members of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability, Mike Lewis is glad to see one recommendation starting to bear fruit.

On May 15, Vancouver city council approved a staff proposal to build 355 units of rental housing on four city-owned sites, to be operated by four community land trust partners.

Lewis praises the decision as “one way of pushing back” against the “rank individualism” of our times.

Last year, Lewis co-authored The Resilience Imperative. In it he writes about community land trusts around the world. He sees them as one way of reclaiming the commons and bridging what he calls the gap between the “we” and the “I.”

Community land trusts do that by owning property under a non-profit, multi-stakeholder, democratic governance model. They are guided by the idea that community control of land, instead of real-estate market investor control, helps keep down the cost of housing.

Vancouver’s Community Housing Land Trust Foundation is a registered charity created two decades ago by the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC. Under the new agreement, Vancouver will lease four city-owned parcels of land to the Land Trust Foundation. It in turn will sub-lease those sites to four partners to develop affordable rental-housing units.

The partners are Fraserview Housing Co-operative, Tikva Housing Society, Katherine Sanford Housing Society and HFBC Housing Foundation. The Land Trust will oversee housing development and construction. The four partners will operate the housing after it’s been built, with the Land Trust overseeing things and reporting annually to the city on how they are reaching affordability targets.

With construction slated to begin in March 2014, the first residents are expected to move in by November 2015.

“This is common sense,” Lewis says. “That’s what I’m excited about by this social-purpose development partnership. It’s principled, it’s pragmatic, and it’s leveraging assets.”

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