Affordable housing is an ongoing challenge in Canada’s North. There is limited housing stock, building costs are high and vacancy rates are low. Rentals are highly competitive and there are limited options for homebuyers, especially for low- and medium-income households.
This project will demonstrate how a community land trust can help meet the need for affordable housing in Whitehorse, Yukon. It will build about 30 units of permanent affordable ownership housing. Homeowners will build equity in their homes, while also having secure housing. The homes, however, will remain long-term community assets, with permanent affordability through limits on resale values.
3 Key Innovations
The project will create permanent affordability by limiting resale values, which will protect public and community resources forever.
The project’s housing units will prioritize sustainability, focusing on energy efficiency and lifecycle analysis of greenhouse gases and carbon used.
The project considers residents’ operating costs in the definition of affordability and includes ways to reduce monthly operating costs.
Project scope and expected outcomes
An urgent need for affordable housing units in Canada’s North
There is an urgent need for affordable housing in Canada’s North. Low- and middle-income individuals and families are impacted by the lack of affordable housing options. In Whitehorse, for instance, the average income is quite high: approximately 55% of households exceed $100,000 in gross annual income. Whitehorse, however, also leads the country in population growth since 2016. This means many working-class people with steady jobs are unable to enter the housing market.
A community land trust offers a potential solution. Land trusts are non-profit corporations created to acquire and hold land for a community. The land is perpetually held in trust for community use, such as affordable housing. Land trusts are membership-based organizations, governed by an elected board of directors and often made of community members and non-profit organizations.
Current incentives for private developers to build affordable housing have not bridged the affordability gap and housing prices continue to increase. A land assembly solution – through a community land trust – earmarked for affordable housing turns housing into a community asset, not a speculative commodity. This will offer new opportunities for improving housing affordability and ensuring that affordability is permanent.
The first community-owned affordable housing project in Whitehorse, Yukon
With support from the National Housing Strategy Demonstrations Initiative, this project will build a 30-unit community land trust project in Whitehorse. Northern Community Land Trust Society will be the first land trust built in northern Canada. It will also be the first community-owned non-profit housing project in Whitehorse with built-in price protection.
The development will be located close to Whitehorse’s downtown core. It will consist of high-quality, durable and efficient units for a diversity of owners. The Land Trust Society intends the units to be affordable to households earning less than 80% of Whitehorse’s median income.
The units themselves will be sustainably built and operated. The project will conduct a lifecycle analysis of greenhouse gas and carbon emissions before they are built. Finally, the units will maximize operating affordability and focus on energy efficiency and durable construction.
Strong partnerships with municipal, Indigenous and territorial governments
An important part of the community land trust model is its emphasis on community-led consultation, design and engagement. This means strong partnerships with municipal, Indigenous and territorial governments as well as Indigenous development corporations. Each of these partners has an important role to play in the creation and vision of the community land trust.
The project will take place over 3 years. In the first year, the project will acquire the land and complete the necessary feasibility studies. It will also complete the community-based design process. This will help produce a detailed design and costing for the project.
In the second year, the project will establish the development team. It will secure a contractor and begin construction on the property. Once the units are completed, they will be released to the community.
In the third year, the project team will compile the project’s information and lessons learned in an online resource. This will help the Land Trust Society offer consulting services and support to other non-profit organizations that are building affordable housing developments.
Demonstrating innovative land assembly solutions and ways of building the sector’s capacity in northern Canada
The land trust will create low- and middle-income family housing in Whitehorse for people otherwise priced out of the housing market. This is very valuable for Whitehorse, which has a significant and growing need for affordable housing. Over the longer term, the land trust model will offer an important way of ensuring long-term housing affordability. This will benefit communities in Yukon and across the North.
The Northern Community Land Trust Society will use the experience and knowledge gained through the project to support other organizations. The Society will offer consulting services to organizations that plan to develop affordable housing and leverage a community land trust approach. In particular, it wants to support other not-for-profit organizations in northern Canada. As a result, the Land Trust Society’s development will both demonstrate innovative land assembly solutions and build the sector's capacity in the North.
Program: National Housing Strategy Demonstrations Initiative
Demonstration Title: Northern Community Land Trust Society, community land trust in Whitehorse
Lead Organization: Northern Community Land Trust Society
Location: Whitehorse, Yukon
Get more information:
Email Innovation-Research@cmhc.ca or visit our website to learn more about the initiatives under the National Housing Strategy.
Interested to learn more about Community land trust solutions for affordable housing? Join the Expert Community on Housing (ECOH) CLT/Land assembly virtual community of practice!