little jamaica toronto

Toronto neighbourhoods have found new way to keep homes and businesses affordable

Multiple Toronto neighbourhoods — including Chinatown, Kensington Market, Parkdale, and now Little Jamaica — have found a way to preserve local businesses and protect affordable housing for vulnerable residents in the face of constant redevelopment.

Community land trusts (CLTs) are non-profit corporations that hold land on behalf of a place-based community, while serving as the steward for affordable housing, civic buildings, and other community assets to avoid the displacement of vulnerable residents and businesses. 

Last Sunday, Mayor Olivia Chow attended the launch of the Little Jamaica Community Land Trust (LJCLT), which was spearheaded by Black Urbanism TO (BUTO), a not-for-profit organization that works tirelessly behind the scenes to protect and promote historically Black ecosystems through cultural, economic and social development. 

The organization was created in response to the negative impacts faced by the Little Jamaica neighbourhood as a result of the delay-plagued Eglinton Crosstown LRT construction, which led to a "significant decline in the local ecosystem." 

"BUTO is proud to pioneer the LJCLT as a Black-led, Black-serving and Black-focused mechanism for the advancement of our social, cultural and economic growth in the neighbourhoods we call home," the organization wrote in a statement announcing the launch. 

The LJCLT also seeks to increase the participation of Black people in community development to advance their collective cultural, economic, and social interests in the neighbourhood.

The community is just the latest Toronto neighbourhood to protect the needs of local residents and businesses through a community land trust model. 

In 2014, the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust was officially launched to ensure the needs of the community were met by leasing land to non-profit partners who could provide affordable housing, furnish spaces for social enterprises, as well as offer urban agriculture and open space. 

The Kensington Market Community Land Trust was also formed through years of neighbourhood-wide planning and co-development.

Incorporated in 2017, the non-profit corporation removes properties from the "pressure of the commercial real estate market," to use the land for local community benefit, including offering affordable housing, maintaining properties that characterize the eclectic feel of the neighbourhood, and ensuring the presence of different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds in the residents and businesses in the area. 

The Toronto Chinatown Land Trust (TCLT) — which was born out of years of organization by the grassroots groups Friends of Chinatown Toronto (FOCT) — is also devoted to removing land from the real estate market and stewarding affordable housing. 

The TCLT is now a community-controlled effort to build an inclusive and ever-evolving Chinatown in Toronto, working to hold resources and assets for working-class people in the neighbourhood. 

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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