Residents of Vancouver's False Creek South explore option of forming housing trust

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      As a creation of the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C., the Community Land Trust has been around for almost three decades.

      Founded in 1993, the CLT’s portfolio has grown from a number of homes transferred over by the province to more than 2,600 units across B.C.

      The land trust has a wealth of experience that executive director Thom Armstrong says the nonprofit is eager to share with residents of False Creek South in Vancouver.

      From its inception in the 1970s and 1980s, False Creek South, located between the Burrard and Cambie bridges, has been intended as a socially diverse neighbourhood.

      With its mix of co-ops, condos, market and nonprofit rentals, and supportive housing, False Creek South is a successful model of urban planning.

      However, there are questions about the future of the community.

      The City of Vancouver owns 80 percent of the land in False Creek South, and leases to these properties will begin expiring in the next few years.

      The False Creek South Neighbourhood Association has laid out a vision to not only preserve but also expand affordable housing in the area.

      To achieve this, the association has stated that it is exploring the idea of forming a community housing trust, which is another name for a land trust.

      “There’s a lot of experience that we have that would be relevant to what they’re trying to do,” CLT’s Armstrong told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      According to Armstrong, land or housing trusts have been shown to be good mechanisms in negotiating with governments.

      “In some of the examples we’ve seen in places like Australia and the U.K. and the United States, when a group forms a community land trust, it can be an effective point of contact with a municipal government or another level of government, because governments have trouble dealing with multiple stakeholders,” Armstrong said.

      It works for individual co-ops and nonprofit-housing providers as well, as negotiations with government require resources on their part as well.

      “It’s a burden on the individual co-ops,” Armstrong said. “And if you can organize the co-ops to create a single point of contact for government, it could be much more efficient on the reporting side, and then also on the asset-management side.”

      According to a count by the False Creek South Neighbourhood Association, there are 1,821 housing units on city-owned land in the area.

      These units are distributed as follows: 573 units in six co-ops; 124 units in four market-rental buildings; 455 units in six nonprofit rental buildings; and 669 units in 13 strata corporations.

      “Typically, what happens is the land trust holds either the title to the property or the lease with government or with the ultimate landowner,” Armstrong noted.

      According to him, the land trust then enters into an operating agreement or sublease with each individual housing entity.

      “But the key is that the underlying asset is either owned or leased by the land trust,” he said.

      Jim Woodward is the vice president of the False Creek South Neighbourhood Association. He also chairs an advisory committee that is looking at the feasibility of a community housing trust for False Creek South.

      “The primary motivation for a community housing trust is to develop housing that is affordable,” Woodward told the Straight by phone.

      Based on a draft plan, Woodward's association is eyeing a million square feet for new housing and commercial spaces in False Creek South.