Edmonton Community Land Trust (CECLT)
By Brian Finley, Executive Director, Central Edmonton Community
Land Trust, Edmonton
The goal of the Central Edmonton Community Land Trust (CECLT is
to use the Community Land Trust model to promote affordable homeownership
among low- and moderate-income residents in inner city Edmonton
neighborhoods. Affordable homeownership is seen as a means of promoting
community development and neighborhood revitalization.
CECLT uses a rent-to-own approach to promote affordable homeownership
among low- and moderate income households. CECLT purchases existing
homes in inner city Edmonton that are in substandard condition.
Using a variety of CMHC and other grants, CECLT renovates these
homes and makes them available to CECLT member households.
To become a CECLT member, a household must have an income equal
to or less than CMHC’s Core Need Income Threshold (a requirement
of RRAP funding). Qualifying households purchase a one-time $30
share in CECLT and submits an application along with a $25 credit
check fee. These households are then interviewed by the selection
committee and homes are awarded on a first-apply-first-serve basis.
CECLT’s member households are extremely diverse, including individuals
and families from both Aboriginal and immigrant communities, as
well as persons with disabilities.
The Big Breakfast House, built in 1917 and renovated
by the center
CECLT homes are allocated according to need (i.e., preferred location,
number of bedrooms, special needs, etc.). Approved households enter
into a five-year rent-to-own agreement with CECLT, after which they
will be given the option to purchase the home for a pre-determined
price (CECLT is still too young to have transferred any of its current
properties over to its member households).
The goal of the rent-to-own approach is to use the equity earned
(the portion of the principal paid down on the mortgage) during
that time towards the household’s down payment. Once the household
takes title to its home, it will continue to lease the land from
CECLT for a set fee, expected to be in the range of $50 per month.
It is anticipated that the lease fees will be used to cover operating
costs and to help pay for future projects. The first group of CECLT
member households is expected to become homeowners by May 2005.
Based on the experiences of CECLT, a Community Land Trust needs
to develop a sustainable business model where revenues meet expenses
on a consistent basis in order to remain viable. Government grants
and private donations can provide necessary seed funding. However,
these sources and the funds they provide are finite. Thus, a Community
Land Trust must develop and maintain an operating model that will
eventually generate sufficient revenues from the properties within
the CLT to cover operating and maintenance costs.
CECLT was able to capitalize on good timing - affordable housing
has been on the agenda of all three levels of government. As a result,
there is strong support for the organization and seed funding has
been made available (e.g., CMHC, the City of Edmonton, the Alberta
Real Estate Foundation, Muttart Foundation, etc.). CECLT recognizes
that this window will not always be open and so is working through
its technical difficulties and redeveloping a model that will continue
to be sustainable beyond current government programs.
The rent-to-own model can be problematic, especially in higher-costs
centers. As CECLT is currently experiencing, households earning
incomes below the Statistics Canada Low-Income Cut-offs (LICO) may
not be able to contribute enough equity within a five-year period
to save up a sufficient down payment. Nor are long-term renters
necessarily going to be ready for homeownership within a five-year
Additional supports to prepare households for homeownership may
be required and the rent-to-own period may need to be extended in
higher-cost centers. CECLT is also currently looking at The HOME
Program (an Alberta-wide homeownership education and counseling
program) as a vehicle to help prepare member households for homeownership.
To be effective, Community Land Trusts need to rely on paid staff
as well as a core of community volunteers. CECLT recognizes the
need to be able to develop appropriate policy and enforce it. This
requires a skilled and experienced Board of Directors supported
by a skilled and experienced administration. As mentioned above,
CECLT has recently hired an Executive Director to provide that support.
Developing a strong sense of community and common purpose is another
important consideration for Community Land Trusts. This requires
paying careful attention to recruiting member households who are
truly committed to the Community Land Trust model and goals of the
particular organization. The creation of CECLT involved the collective
efforts, energy and resources of a broad spectrum of community supporters
- those who believed in the Community Land Trust model and community
development. The next step will be to build a stronger sense of
community among the organization’s member households.
The key success of CECLT will be the day when a member household
takes title and becomes a homeowner - a success that would not have
been possible without CECLT.
For more information about the Central Edmonton Community Land Trust,
contact: Brian Finley by email at email@example.com.