News / Toronto

Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust looking to keep housing affordable by buying land

The group is crowdfunding to raise money, and looking at six properties for sale in the neighbourhood.

The Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust is raising $50,000 for a deposit and down payment on a residential property.

Amal Albaz / Torstar News Service Order this photo

The Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust is raising $50,000 for a deposit and down payment on a residential property.

Like many Torontonians, the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust is saving up for a down payment.

Unlike many Torontonians, the group is crowdfunding to reach its goal: leveraging the power of community to ease the affordable housing crisis. In the short term, the trust is looking to buy its first residential property.

“We believe that there’s many people out there who want to contribute to a solution, and so we want to create opportunities for that," said Joshua Barndt, executive director of the land trust.

The group is eyeing six different properties on the market, all ranging from 15 to 36 units and currently occupied by mostly low-income tenants.

The project is partially a response to growing concern over gentrification pricing out the neighbourhood's current tenants. The land trust published a study in the summer identifying 59 buildings at risk of flipping from rooming houses to single-family homes or more upscale rentals — a fate already seen in 28 sites over the last 10 years, according to the report.

"People’s whole community is here, so for people to be able to stay both in their housing but also in their community is extremely important to their success in our society," Barndt said.

The land trust hopes to announce a tentative deal early in the new year and to take possession by next summer. It will then lease the building to an agency that will run it as affordable apartments.

The crowdfunding campaign has until April 1 to reach its $50,000 goal to put toward a deposit and down payment. The funds will complement a $486,000 grant from the provincial government's local poverty-reduction fund, Barndt said.

​“Without the community's support, we can’t preserve these homes," Barndt said.

After forming in 2010, the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust officially acquired its first parcel of land last June: The Milky Way Garden, a 7,000 sq. ft. swath of land that serves as a community garden.

Barndt says this goes to show the group is not only looking at housing needs but also the more holistic needs of the neighbourhood. However, he says housing has repeatedly been identified as the most urgent issue.

The land trust model is well-established in Europe and has a presence in the U.S., Africa and Middle East, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Though it is less prevalent in Canada thus far, the model is growing in popularity. B.C.'s Community Land Trust opened its first residential building in Vancouver in October and broke ground on another in May. In Toronto, the Kensington Market Community Land Trust is in the process of incorporating and looking for projects and partnerships.

To Barndt, creative solutions are needed to tackle rising home prices.

"The city is becoming more and more unaffordable," he said. "So we need models like this to keep our neighbourhoods inclusive, diverse, affordable and vibrant."

More on