How Library Systems Can Help Address Affordable Housing Crises

Barrie Public Library - Painswick Branch photo by Barrie Ontario is licensed under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
A typical one or two storey branch library. This one is in Barrie, Ontario, a bedroom community for Toronto, some seventy miles away, with some of the highest rents in the region.

Increasing density seems the only option for building affordable housing in the downtown core of many cities. Even smaller homes in higher towers may only temporarily be affordable, if the rising cost of land cannot be controlled.

One possible way of controlling land costs is through the establishment of land trusts, where the land is removed from the market either in perpetuity, or for a considerable length of time. For governments intent upon finding land suitable for a land trust, it may be necessary to go the most expensive route — purchasing on the free market in competition with other buyers.

Often, local and regional governments have another option. They can remove from the free market land which they already own or control. Examples? Surplus transit land, and residential or commercial land seized for back payment of taxes.

But these examples assume a need for affordable housing with a large enough footprint at ground level. Suppose instead that the affordable housing can be built ‘floating’ above the ground, with space at the bottom dedicated to another city government use (indeed, use by any level of government). The footprint of the ground level must, needless to say, still be suitably large. But examples now expand to include land directly above transit stations, or above transit right-of-ways.

What other city functions are carried out in low-rise city-owned buildings, which might with redevelopment become the footprint of an affordable housing or mixed housing development tower above? Read about one Vancouver, B.C option nearing completion in Vancouver, B.C in URBANIZED: New affordable housing built over fire station in Vancouver nearing completion

Read more about another intriguing option in NextCity: How Library Systems Can Help Address Affordable Housing Crises