British Columbia Federation Forms Land Trust for Affordable
By David Freed
The Canadian cooperative housing movement has embarked on a novel initiative with the potential to transform how cooperatives are developed and preserved as affordable housing for future generations. The Cooperative Housing Federation of British Columbia (CHF BC) is the service and support association for housing cooperatives in the Provence. The Federation membership formed the Vancouver Community Land Trust (CLT) Foundation to increase the supply of affordable cooperatives and to provide stewardship over this valuable housing resource for the long-term. A community land trust is a non-profit corporation that acquires and holds land for the benefit of the community and provides permanently affordable housing.
In Vancouver, the cooperative housing sector is the sponsor of a unique, cooperative variation on the land trust model. The Vancouver CLT has an expansionist vision for creating more affordable housing and has partnered with other not-for-profit developers to meet shelter needs, along the continuum of housing. Currently, the CLT has taken the lead in a four-site development partnership with 358 units under construction. In addition to the 278-unit Fraserview Cooperative, the CLT initiative will also develop 32 units of townhome rentals for low-income families operated by the non-profit Tikva Housing Society and 48 one-bedroom units primarily for persons with mental illness managed by Sanford Housing Society, another Vancouver non-profit housing services provider. To make the “numbers” work, the city of Vancouver has provided a 99-year lease at $10 to the Vancouver CLT for land valued at more than $25 million. In addition, commercial space will be sold to reduce the costs of the affordable housing under development. Upon completion, the Foundation and the two other non-profit sponsors are responsible for management oversight and stewardship of these affordable housing resources for decades to come.
The CLT model demonstrates that ‘power’ of cooperation among cooperatives and its vision for a greater cooperative housing movement. Through partnerships with other non-profits, the cooperatives and the land trust also fulfill the cooperative principal of concern for community.
In the United States, all eyes should be trained on this cooperative housing innovation. Hopefully, social entrepreneurs will dig into what makes cooperative housing work in Canada and follow the lead of our neighbors.
David Freed is a cooperative housing evangelist, community land trust catalyst and permanent affordable housing champion based in the Greater Philadelphia Area.