Canadian Network of CLTs Hosts Inaugural CLT Summit: “Seeding Change, Cultivating Tomorrow”

The following contribution was written by Center for CLT Innovation Board Member, Brenda Torpy:

As Canada confronts a housing crisis, the Canadian Network of Community Land Trusts (CNCLT) held its inaugural Summit titled “Seeding Change, Cultivating Tomorrow” on October 20-23 in Toronto. There were 170 registrants and another 100 for the Friday session. People came from Quebec, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, BC, and the Yukon as well as folks from Vermont, Boston, and LA. The Vermonter was CCLTI Board Member Brenda Torpy who attended representing the Center. Conference organizers invited her to participate in two sessions: a plenary panel on the role of CLTs in expanding co-op housing where she had an opportunity to introduce the 150 attendees to the CCLTI’s current and planned activities; and to lead a workshop on collaboration among CLTs in overlapping jurisdictions. The spirit of collaboration was palpable among the summit’s participants as evidenced by conversations like this one, and other examples presented in sessions as well as in the discussions at the Network’s first annual general meeting, held on Saturday the 21st. Members present seated the first member-elected board, adopted the proposed by-laws developed by the founding board and approved a three-year business plan for the recently staffed network. A multi-year start-up grant provided by the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) as part of a PILOT funding several CLTs has enabled the Network to staff up and launch itself into this new phase.

Photo of conference pamphlet that reads "Community Land Trust Summit"
Photo on behalf of Community Land Trust Summit

The Aboriginal leaders who opened and closed the proceedings spoke to the enduring impacts of Canada’s colonial roots on Canada’s Aboriginal peoples challenging attendees to confront these social and economic disparities and to support the Land Back movement and ensure Aboriginal leadership and representation in the network and emerging CLTs. They also spoke of their millennia of land stewardship, challenging Canada’s CLTs to hold fast to that core mission of communal stewardship even as the movement wrestles with tackling the housing crisis by scaling up acquisition and production.

And Canada’s CLTs are truly stepping up to meet this moment through innovation and growth. Large and well-capitalized CLTs in British Columbia and Ontario are teaming up with cooperative communities to preserve the co-ops’ affordability due to expiring affordability restrictions. This is an interesting marriage of scale and grassroots community-building. In BC the Co-op Housing Federation of BC’s Community Land Trust has already preserved nearly 3,000 co-op homes and has recently been awarded a multi-million dollar grant from the provincial government to further this work.

Photo of panel discussion from the Canada CLT Summit
Photo on behalf of Community Land Trust Summit

Fighting gentrification are neighborhood CLTs like Parkdale, Kensington Market and Chinatown in Toronto and Next City in Vancouver. In Nova Scotia, several Black communities have formed local CLTs to preserve their homes, cultural fabric and legacy businesses.

Throughout the country, medium-size cities are looking to CLTs to combat the loss of affordable homeownership and gentrification resulting from urban refugees and remote workers. Similarly, local governments are encouraging and supporting CLTs to provide permanently affordable homes for local workers, including by gifting land for CLT development. Many rural towns are losing homes to second home buyers and short-term rentals. A newly formed non-profit in the Brome-Missisquoi region of Quebec, Solutions Immobilliers Solidaires, is designing a replicable hub-and-spoke model CLT to serve the mid-sized cities in this rural market with their first major project in Brome. There, too, a provincial grant has leveraged a fund, Plancher, to support affordable housing production and preservation for CLTs, and co-ops and other social housing.

Photo of breakout panel discussion from Summit
Photo on behalf of Community Land Trust Summit

These examples illustrate the creativity and scale of Canada’s CLT response to the current housing crisis. The Summit marked a big milestone for a network poised to support this rapidly growing movement. Judging by the energy at the Summit, and the quality of the local work represented there, CLTs will be playing a leading role in advancing land and housing justice across Canada and will have a lot to offer to the emerging movements that CCLTI seeks to support around the globe.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Center for CLT Innovation.