News / Vancouver

Foundations laid for B.C.'s largest housing co-op project

Housing non-profits will manage 358 affordable units on four city-owned properties in south Vancouver.

From left, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson; federal defence minister and local MP Harjit Sajjan; B.C. housing minister Rich Coleman; B.C. Attorney General and local MLA Suzanne Anton; Co-op Federation of B.C. executive director Thom Armstrong; and Vancouver's chief housing officer Mukhtar Latif unveil the pilot project at one of the city-owned construction sites forming the Vancouver Community Land Trust on Wednesday.

David P. Ball/Metro

From left, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson; federal defence minister and local MP Harjit Sajjan; B.C. housing minister Rich Coleman; B.C. Attorney General and local MLA Suzanne Anton; Co-op Federation of B.C. executive director Thom Armstrong; and Vancouver's chief housing officer Mukhtar Latif unveil the pilot project at one of the city-owned construction sites forming the Vancouver Community Land Trust on Wednesday.

A 358-unit housing project that's testing out a new model of nonprofit development in the Lower Mainland took a step closer to completion Wednesday.

Government dignitaries and nonprofits gathered on the banks of the Fraser River as construction workers prepared foundations nearby on City of Vancouver-owned land that will be leased to the Vancouver Community Land Trust for 99 years.

Land trusts are a nonprofit development model pioneered in the U.S. that preserve community control over land for the long run, off the private market. The B.C. pilot project is more than three years in the making. When completed it will host B.C.'s largest housing co-op, three-bedroom family townhouses, and supportive housing for people with mental illness — at below market rental rates.

"The city is leveraging its land assets," said Mukhtar Latif, Vancouver's chief housing officer, explaining that the project is a partnership with the provincial and federal governments, co-ops, and several nonprofit financial institutions aimed at delivering "affordability for future generations."

To do that, the city offered up four properties for rent, while other governments also chipped in towards the roughly $110-million price tag.

A 99-year city lease will ensure that investment keeps the housing affordable long into the future, managed by the Federation, Sanford Housing Society and Tikva Housing Society.

"We found two partners who will be with us for the next 99 years," joked the Co-op Federation's executive director, Thom Armstrong. "Now that's a long-term relationship."

At the announcement Wednesday, the province's minister responsible for housing, Rich Coleman, described as an example of "great innovation which we can build on for affordability across the Lower Mainland."

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