Kensington Land Trust

Land trust wants to save Kensington Market by issuing bonds and buying property

The Kensington Market Community Land Trust (KMCLT) is tackling gentrification in Kensington Market by launching Kensington Community Bonds, an initiative that aims to raise up to $2 million through community bonds to buy a second property in the neighbourhood.

The goal of this financing is to help keep housing affordable and prevent further displacement of legacy businesses by taking more property off the for-profit real estate market.

In a press release, the KMCLT called upon supporters to invest in the community bond offering to keep Kensington Market community-owned, noting that, with investments as low as $500 and interest rates of up to 4.5%, Kensington Market community bonds are designed to attract a wide range of investors from everyday residents, businesses, organizations, and foundations across Canada.

The bonds will be administered by Tapestry Community Capital—a community investment and social finance leader that has advised qualified issuers in raising over $100 million in community bonds.

“We are an organization centered on mutual aid and community ownership, so we believe our financing options should align with these values,” Dominique Russell, co-chair of the Kensington Market Community Land Trust, said in a statement.

“We are seeking to use community-sourced funding rather than relying on an external lender for a mortgage. The community bond model gives us control over our financing terms. And instead of paying interest to banks, we will be putting this money directly into the community we serve.”

Oxford Fruit
Oxford Fruit

Kensington Market is unofficially known as Toronto’s cultural mecca, as the neighbourhood features many different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. However, in recent years, gentrification has led to rising rents, displacing longtime residential tenants and pushing out legacy and small independent businesses (an issue that has been occurring across the city).

In 2021, KMCLT purchased 54-56 Kensington Ave. after a resident-led resistance to the previous landlord’s illegal eviction process. The organization received approximately $3 million from the city—a 99-year loan that stipulates that the land trust must ensure affordability at the site or else it must be paid back right away.

The three-storey building they purchased hosts 12 residential units and five commercial spaces, which include an ATM, a hat shop, and a tattoo parlour. It was the first purchase for the land trust—which was formed in 2017—and they have kept their promise to keep rent affordable and provide long-term lease stability. The current residential rental rates at their property are well under 80% of the average market rent ($1,142 for a bachelor apartment, and $1,594 for a 2-bedroom).

To build on this success, KMCLT is hoping to buy its second property in or near Kensington Market.

Last year, they received a $476,000 forgivable loan from the City of Toronto to go toward a future property acquisition. With money raised through community bonds and government funding, KMCLT intends to purchase a property for between $2-4M by the fall of 2024.

Click here to learn more about Kensington Community Bonds and how you can invest.