News Local

Future lies in land trust models: expert

By Stefania Seccia

Demonstrators gather to protest against high housing prices for single-family homes in Vancouver this past May.
REUTERS

Demonstrators gather to protest against high housing prices for single-family homes in Vancouver this past May. REUTERS

With the federal government no longer interested in creating more co-operative housing at below-market rental rates, hundreds of new and affordable rental suites will be available in the next two years thanks to a public-social sector partnership.

For the last two years, the Vancouver Community Land Trust Foundation has been working on building 358 rental units across the city, and rent will average 25% below market value.

Construction is expected to begin this September on the $100-million development across three sites on Kingsway, Southeast Marine Drive and East Kent Avenue South.

The project is expected to achieve financial sustainability within the first year of full occupancy.

The affordable rents were made possible because the city made the land available for development at discounted rates — a contribution equivalent to 23% of the project’s value.

The Co-Op Housing Federation of B.C.’s executive director is the lead organization in the land trust, and its executive director, Thom Armstrong, said rents will be set at an average of 75% their market value.

“We’re already in conversation with other interested parties and we think that any municipality or level of government that has assets in land that it wants to use to convert to affordable housing, we think there’s potential for this model to apply,” he said.

“Not just co-ops, any kind of non-profit housing with the mission to achieve levels of affordability in the absence of provincial and federal supply program that in the past were used to fund the development of new social housing — this idea of a community partnership is the future of housing developments.”

Kristen Patten, a University of B.C. researcher, concluded from a study into the land trust model that it maximizes affordability by pairing city assets with housing providers that know the market, contribute equity, and with socially conscious private equity firms.

“It’s also self-sustaining, as the higher-income units will subsidize the less profitable units,” she said.

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