Land Trusts for Housing

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Toronto Islands Residential Community Trust

John Restakis:

"One of Canada’s best examples of a successful land trust for housing is the Toronto Islands Residential Community Trust on Wards’ and Algonquin islands in Toronto Harbour. The land trust was established in 1993 as a solution to the long-standing conflict between homeowners and the city over housing tenure on public lands. (The land on which the houses now stand was converted to parkland in the 1970s). The solution entailed three goals: to establish security of tenure for homeowners; to retain the housing as an affordable option; and to prevent windfall profits on public land.

The Land Trust operates essentially as a multi-stakeholder co-op with homeowners electing a board of directors that includes representation from both the City of Toronto and the Province. The members of the Toronto Island Residential Community Trust are the individual homeowners who lease their land from the city. Their homes are their own property.

All leases are for 99 years and are handled through the Land Trust. Direct sales by individual homeowners to buyers are not allowed. Moreover, the sale price of individual homes is set by a formula: the replacement value of the house plus a premium of 1.5 % over the replacement value for each year the owner has lived in the house. This rewards long-term residence and supports community stability. Finally, to curtail absentee landlords, there are limits on how long a homeowner can stay away from their residence. The building inspections, house value assessments, listings, and sale of the houses are all handled by the Land Trust, which has a small administrative staff. The Trust also administers a waiting list of buyers for leases that come up for sale. A small percentage of each house sale goes to the Trust to pay for its operations.

The model has had spectacular success not only in preserving a unique cottage community, but also in protecting a valuable stock of affordable housing for the city. The model allows a municipality to protect affordable housing by designating municipally owned lands for this purpose, much as the Agricultural Land Reserve does for farmland. Any below market housing that is developed on these lands would be subject to the type of resale restrictions described above. Using a similar approach the city could begin to address land costs for other strategic uses - for example, fledgling industries, artists and cultural workers, as well as vulnerable populations such as seniors."

Source: City of Vancouver as Cooperative City‎‎