Quebec’s social utility trusts (SUTs) make it possible to protect land and buildings from rising values and speculation, which are caused by gentrification, among other things. They therefore help limit the displacement of vulnerable populations and promote the creation of affordable housing. Despite this, they are underused and often overlooked.
This project seeks to remedy the lack of information on SUTs. It will work with community partners and other stakeholders to co-create tools to help affordable housing providers set up SUTs. It will also study and compare inspiring SUTs and land trust projects in order to learn more about different models. This will help improve understanding of the SUT model and make it easier to implement.
3 Key Innovations
The project will create tools and activities to promote use of the Quebec-specific SUT solution across different environments.
It will work to position the SUT legal format relative to other Canadian initiatives and activities that use community land trusts.
It will create a website with tools and information to be the leading resource on SUTs and their implementation.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Social utility trusts are an ideal instrument for creating affordable community housing in Quebec
Social utility trusts (SUTs) were introduced in the Civil Code in 1994. They are a Quebec-specific instrument that are the equivalent of the land trusts used in the rest of Canada. Like land trusts, SUTs are ideal instruments for land pooling solutions and creating affordable housing. Since they are only used in Quebec, however, they have features specific to Quebec law.
SUTs are the perfect legal framework for community land trust (CLT) solutions. CLTs are non-profit corporations created to acquire and hold land for a community. The land is perpetually held in trust to help provide access for community use, such as affordable housing. CLTs are membership-based organizations, governed by an elected board of directors, and often made of community members and non-profit organizations.
Despite this potential, SUTs are under-used and under-recognized. Territoires innovants en économie sociale et solidaire (TIESS) previously developed a knowledge base and comprehensive guide on SUTs and SUT decision-making (available only in French). This project highlighted the tremendous potential of the instrument. The next step is to raise awareness about SUTs and to provide tools and resources to help organizations implement them.
Developing tools and activities for implementing social utility trusts
With support from the National Housing Strategy Demonstrations Initiative, this project will conduct a deeper analysis of 6 different SUT models. It will then develop tools and activities for implementing SUTs in a variety of different environments.
In particular, the project will:
- improve knowledge and understanding of SUTs as a legal instrument
- learn more about the various SUT application models, particularly with respect to affordable housing
- develop tools and activities that are adapted to promote the development potential of the SUT model for target population groups
- allow for the wide distribution of tools and content via a dedicated website
- clarify certain legal issues with experts to facilitate the launch of SUTs
- study and compare inspiring Canadian SUT and land trust projects, as well as begin a discussion about SUT/land trust considerations and experiences
The SUT information will then be adapted to 6 key sectors. Many are related to housing affordability or Indigenous housing:
- social housing
- built heritage
- the environment
- local agriculture
- development of living environments and
- First Nations land governance
These activities will provide affordable housing stakeholders with the tools they need to set up SUT structures. This will help them protect land and buildings from rising real estate values and speculation in a sustainable way.
Developing policy and practice to support future property acquisitions
The project is based on action learning. This approach focuses on concrete issues (rather than theoretical ones) and works to find practical, sustainable solutions to address them. Partners play an important role in this approach. This is because they are central to the action and ideally positioned to adopt the knowledge being created.
A series of ideation sessions with community partners and interviews with stakeholders will be held. These will discuss a range of topics, such as financial arrangements and taxation, business models, governance and more. These sessions will help identify risks, raise key questions and ensure SUTs are the best way to address stakeholder needs. They will also be the basis of 4 SUT portraits that will be posted on the project website.
Since SUTs are not widespread—and their use for housing is new—the project will clarify legal issues around the instrument. This will be done in consultation with experts.
A coaching kit, consisting of a set of tools related to SUTs, will be created. These will be shared through a series of presentations that will give stakeholders a chance to test the materials and tools. A website will also be developed to share the information and SUT portraits that are created. The goal is for the website to become the leading reference for SUTs.
Helping to strengthen non-profit ownership and community stewardship of Canada’s housing system
SUTs and CLTs have the potential to improve the social and economic inclusion of individuals and families. In the short term, the project will raise awareness and understanding of the SUT model among communities, municipalities and more. This may lead to more requests for SUT/CLT development and better support for project developers. It also should result in a general increase in expertise related to SUTs and CLTs.
Over the longer term, the increase in SUT and CLT use will help ensure better access to more sustainable community housing. This will benefit low-income households and Indigenous communities. Greater SUT and CLT development will establish SUT best practices and improve organization and governance for Quebec SUTs. It will also create a culture of innovation, sharing and transfer that will eventually result in better access to housing.
Program: NHS Demonstrations Initiative
Demonstration Title: Social utility trust: Model deployment and consolidation
Lead Organization: Territoires innovants en économie sociale et solidaire (TIESS)
Collaborators and Partners:
- Université de Sherbrooke
- Therrien Couture Joli-Cœur
- UQAM School of Management
- Chantier de l'Économie sociale
- Social Economy Bureau, City of Montréal
- Rayside Labossière, architects
- First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Economic Development Commission
- Fédération de l'habitation coopérative du Québec (FHCQ)
- Coopérative de développement régional Outaouais-Laurentides (CDROL)
- Foncier solidaire
Location: Province of Quebec
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!