Attempts to develop housing solutions in Muskoka continue.
Suzanne Martineau and Melinda Zytaruk, representing the Muskoka Community Land Trust, were before Lake of Bays Council at its December 7 meeting asking for municipal support for a land trust housing initiative.
The not-for-profit organization is looking for private and public support in order to get the organization off the ground and provide much-needed affordable housing options in the community.
Martineau described herself as a retiring real estate broker who has lived in Muskoka for more than 22 years, a place where she’s raised three children. She is involved with women’s shelters and services in the community as well as the Mana Food Bank.
She told council she has firsthand experience witnessing the housing crisis throughout Muskoka, and its impact on groups such as marginalized communities, young couples trying to get into the housing market, elderly residents, and those in need of social housing.
“The idea today is to introduce the Muskoka Community Land Trust (MCLT), and the concept, and to request partnerships with the District, of course, and the lower-tier municipalities,” said Martineau.
She said MCLT would attain land and develop the land for the needs of the community and keep it affordable over time.
“This is a well-established housing model. It has a long history in Canada as a matter of fact around the world. It came out of the US in the ’30s and there are 30 land trusts operating in Canada right now, the most famous I guess in the Ontario area would be the Parkdale Community Land Trust. They were a neighbourhood in Toronto suffering severe gentrification issues, you know multiple generations of families losing homes. They now own 36 buildings and have kept families in place.”
She said the Muskoka Community Land Trust would be managed by community and local agencies working together for attainable shelter and just, healthy, and inclusive neighbourhoods.
“So we will acquire, hold and develop and sometimes manage land over the long term. We will be land stewards. We want to provide homeownership opportunities and offer housing stability in the Muskoka area.”
The idea to bring community land trusts here was borne from the Muskoka Housing Task Force launched in 2019 by the District of Muskoka.
A community land trust homeownership model would involve shared equity, explained Martineau. The home and land would be separated, thereby bringing the cost of the home down, and the home would be offered in some instances at a discounted rate depending on funding and grants. “And so that creates affordability but the question is how do we maintain affordability over time and that happens in resale. So it’s a shared equity model.”
The homeowner would purchase the home and lease the land from MCLT. On the sale of the home, they would be able to take out the equity of the home that they’ve paid in, and share a predetermined percentage of the appreciated value of the home, while the remainder would go back into the trust to help keep affordability down for the next homeowner. “And for those who’ve had barriers to house entry and homeownership, they’re still walking away with equity under this model,” noted Martineau.
“We can elaborate and create a bigger housing neighbourhood project,” said Martineau who showed committee an example of a potential development of small homes on a two-to-three-acre lot in Huntsville.
She said the MCLT could also develop a model for multi-residential rental units in partnership with public, private, and non-profit organizations. “This helps address shrinking household sizes. We don’t have a stock of single-bedroom rental units in Muskoka or social housing. We can really focus on developing properties that suit those needs.”
MCLT has incorporated. “It is official, we’re in the process of organizing. We need to raise capital and secure resources. We do need to expand our inaugural board of directors. We want to engage a full-time manager and we’re in the process of coordinating outreach.”
She said community support is essential and land donations crucial.
They’re requesting $60,000 per year over a three-year period from the District of Muskoka and $10,000 from each lower-tier member municipality over a three-year period.
“We certainly appreciate any advances we can make in affordable, attainable housing or whatever we want to call it. There certainly is a crisis all over Canada,” said Lake of Bays Mayor Terry Glover who said the request would be considered during budget deliberations.
You can find the presentation to the council here.
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