[URBAN NOTE] “Why some Toronto neighbourhoods are buying land to protect themselves”
blogTO’s Amy Grief describes how the institution of the community land trust, organized by neighbourhood organizations to buy up available land in different places with the goal of ensuring it will be used for affordable housing and the like, is starting to appear in Toronto.
[O]rganizations in both Parkdale and Kensington Market are trying to use the community land trust model in order to fight neighbourhood gentrification and rent increases (in both commercial and residential properties).
Like other community land trusts – located in the United States and other parts of Canada, including in Hamilton – the ones in Parkdale and Kensington Market seek to own land and then lease it like-minded organizations who can help secure affordable housing and green space.
“We want to own real parcels of land, own the deed to them and we want to determine collectively how that land is used to meet community needs,” says Joshua Barndt, the development coordinator at the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust.
He grew up in the west side neighbourhood and joined the PNLT after the non-profit organization got a Trillium Grant in 2014, which allowed it to hire staff. He says anyone who lives or works in Parkdale can become a PNLT member, but the group’s governed by an elected board of directors.
Barndt explains that the PNLT wants to focus on securing affordable housing as commercial spaces as well as projects to protect food security in the neighbourhood. Fittingly, the organization’s in the process of getting its first piece of land: the Milky Way Garden behind the Parkdale Library.
“The land trust’s role is to hold and secure the site and make it affordably available,” says Barndt. The PNLT hopes to use the Milky Way plot for urban agriculture initiatives operated by the non-profit Greenest City.