A Land Trust For Rooming Houses

Evening storefronts lit by interior lighting on Queen Street, Parkdale, Toronto
Queen0125-01 photo by Ryan is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Toronto's Parkdale District. Once wealthy, then down at the heels with rooming houses and affordable housing, now becoming a desirable close-to-downtown place to live.

Toronto’s Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust is buying properties in a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood with the goal of making sure that homes are available to people with very low incomes.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Parkdale Neighbourhood was a summer vacationing place for wealthy families. Located less than 5 kilometres from the centre of Toronto, Parkdale became less popular as roads and cars made Muskoka and other further destinations more accessible.

The homes were renovated to operate as rooming and boarding homes in 1970’s and 1980’s. The neighbourhood was close by one of the province’s largest mental hospitals. During these years, de-insitutionalization replaced a longstanding policy of hospitalization. Parkdale became home to many patients who were being discharged.

With minimal income from social assistance, these new residents could just manage to pay for a room in a local boarding or rooming house. For the next few decades, the neighbourhood was home for a mix of people. Homeowners with reasonable incomes lived next to tenants who had very little. There were battles to improve the quality of the area’s high rises and rooming houses, which are owned by some of the city’s most notorious landlords. For some time, people intent on building condos and redeveloping existing properties looked elsewhere for land to develop.

Today however, the neighbourhood has become trendy. Ironically, its diversity is one of its selling points. Properties in Parkdale are now prime candidates for redevelopment. The Parkdale Community Land Trust aims to interrupt that gentrification, which drives prices up and makes it unaffordable for long-standing residents. As the linked story below relates, their success to date is partly down to being able to act quickly and to finding a financial institution that shares the Land Trust’s community based values.

The following article describes a model that will provide housing for people with very low incomes on a permanent basis. In this, it represents an alternative to public housing, which seeks to overcome some of public housing’s limitations. The community land trust supports residents and the community where they live.

The article will also be useful to financial institutions with social objectives, providing an example of a land trust that aims to support people with very low income. Read more at TVO: How A Non-Profit Is Tackling The Housing Crisis In This Toronto Neighbourhood

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