A 'daunting journey': Land trust launches new Van City affordable housing
Century-long nonprofit-government deal first of several using model, city hopes
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Vancouver's first-completed housing built using a land trust opened Sunday — a long-term agreement that leases property for a century to lock in affordability for 48 households earning $50,000-70,000 a year, and reserving half of its units for lower incomes.
The BRice building is named in honour of Bonnie Rice, a recently retired staffer at the building's non-profit operator, Sanford Housing Society, who was closely involved in setting up the complicated land deal between many nonprofit and government players.
"It was a long and at times daunting journey," Rice told reporters. After retiring, she moved homes herself and experienced "personally how difficult it is to find decent housing" in a city marred by affordable housing woes.
Rice spoke alongside top elected officials from the city, province and feds inside ground-level space at 1720 Kingsway Ave., the site of the four story complex.
The deal came about through the Community Land Trust Foundation — which brought together Ottawa, the province, the city, as well as co-op and non-profit housing agencies.
Land trusts are a model gaining traction elsewhere facing housing shortages, but BRice is first of what Vancouver hopes will be a series of buildings that mix low- and moderate-income families. Another, larger 358-unit complex in South Fraser area broke ground in May last year.
Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C. executive director Thom Armstrong said the 1980s co-op housing boom suffered as governments gradually withdrew funds and buildings fell into disrepair. Today's wave of land trusts, he said, gets around that problem by being self-sustaining and unsubsidized once set up.
"We wanted (this) to be bulletproof … from day one," he said. "The tenure on the land is absolutely secure; the lease is locked in for 99 years.
"A change in government at any level can't really affect the (project) … No one wants to go back to the model of 1980s capital grants and legacy subsidy streams; that just locks you into a relationship of dependence and vulnerability."
Land trusts, Armstrong said, are one model that make him "optimistic" for "the future of housing" across the country.