PN-Toronto: Alternative Housing Models: Community Land Trust?
About 60 people attended the PN-Toronto event held at Beit Zatoun on June 4, 2015. The event began with a welcome from the evening’s emcee, Erika Hennebury, a welcome to Beit Zatoun from Robert Massoud, and a brief history of Planners Network from Barbara Rahder. The 3 panelists–Michael Shapcott, Allison Maxted, and Kuni Kamizaki—recounted their experiences with the development of Community Land Trusts (CLTs) and an animated discussion ensued. The evening wrapped up with an agreement to share CLT-related materials from participants on the PN-Toronto Facebook page. A brief summary of each speaker’s background and remarks follow.
Michael Shapcott is recognized as one of Canada’s leading community-based housing and homelessness experts. He was a community organizer in the 1980s and 90s, helping to develop hundreds of units of affordable social and supportive housing in Toronto. He is currently on secondment from the Wellesley Institute and is managing a national multi-sectoral collaborative initiative on youth employment. Michael is co-editor, with David Hulchanski, of Finding Room (2004), a leading text on rental housing policy; and is co-author, with Jack Layton, of the second edition of Homelessness: The Making and Un-Making of a National Crisis (2008).
- · CommunityLand Trusts currently exist in Toronto at the Bathurst Quay Community Land Trust and at the Toronto Island Community Land Cooperative. Both are thriving.
- · We need more CLTs, but technical expertise is not the issue; we need a conversation about values.
- · We know that the provision of supportive housing saves millions in emergency health care costs; meanwhile Toronto is becoming more inequitable not less so.
- · Developers often look the other way when it comes to their role in contributing to an equitable city.
- · Politicians often ask for a simplistic, silver bullet solution: “what is one thing I can do to address the affordable housing issue?” But there are many things–financial, regulatory, and social—that need to be addressed.
- · We need a Housing Trust Fund, as well as CLTs.
Allison Maxted is Project Director of the Hamilton Community Land Trust, a grassroots and volunteer-driven effort to develop a CLT in Hamilton. She has a background in urban planning and is interested in building neighbourhoods that are inclusive, just, and livable. Allison has served as coordinator of operations for Kitchener’s Festival of Neighbourhoods and occasionally does research with CivicPlan, a Hamilton-based consulting firm that specializes in planning, engagement, and research.
- Hamilton’s industrial decline has created many challenges: disinvestment, absentee landlords, poverty, mental health problems, underutilized and uncared for urban spaces with revitalization occurring mostly downtown.
- The CLT formed in response to land speculation and its lack of benefits for poorer residents; aim is to take land out of the market and re-establish community control that is equitable, inclusive and democratic.
- The organization is city-wide, not neighbourhood based, due to the scattered nature of neglected and tax delinquent properties that they hope to acquire before gentrification pressures make them unaffordable.
- CLTs offer a sense of permanence as the housing stays affordable for the long term.
- Still have numerous financial issues to resolve; exploring options such as community bonds, crowdsourcing, etc.
Kuni Kamizaki is the Research Coordinator at Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre (PARC) and planner for the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust. He has a background incommunity-based planning and was a researcher for a participatory action research project at the University of Toronto in partnership with Action for Neighbourhood Change-Mount Dennis. Since 2012, Kuni has worked at PARC and has been coordinating a range of community development initiatives, including the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust, the Food Flow project, and the Co-op Cred program.
- · PARC’s CLT is aimed at resisting gentrification and displacement by taking land out of the market; they recently got a grant that allowed them to hire Joshua Barndt to be the CLT’s developer
- · They’ve done extensive community organizing and have a Board: 1/3 members from catchment area, 1/3 CLT residents and 1/3 experts [whereas co-op housing boards are resident members only]
- · Major challenges are the lack of funding and zoning support
- · Land costs in Toronto mean that the CLT may not be very affordable
- · However, the CLT management structure is aimed at meeting community needs and could become more affordable over time, especially if inclusive zoning allowed it to get a toehold in the city
- · The Parkdale CLT sees themselves as land stewards who protect and preserve land for local community needs.
Many importantconnections were made among participants in the conversations that followed the panel presentations. Among the key points discussed were:
· Governing structures for CLTS vary:neighbourhood-based, city-wide, purpose-based
· Several people emphasized the importance of using CLTs for community gardens and even commercial enterprises.
· Interestingly, both the Hamilton and PARC CLTs emerged out of graduate student research projects.
· The Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Healthy Community Foundation have provided grants to get the organizations started, but the big question is what will happen in 3-4 years when these grants run out?
· Section 37 of the Ontario Planning Act (also known as “Let’s make a deal planning”) is not adequate; inclusionary zoning is sorely needed
· Participants brainstormed potential opportunities to acquire underutilized land from churches, school boards, municipalities
CLTs can be any size,but democratic community control is essential. The emphasis is on the land and the community first with more affordable housing being the outcome. CLTs need non-market property taxation that municipalities already have the flexibility to provide, if they can be motivated to do so. Collective responsibility for land and for each other—this is the model we hope to be moving towards.
Organizers for this event were: Erika Hennebury, Jeff Biggar, Emelija Vasic, Lyna Saad, Andrew Winchur and Barbara Rahder.