Tuesday, November 15, 2022, Traditional territory of multiple Indigenous nations, including the Haudenosaunee and the treaty territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit/Toronto, ON – Union: Sustainable Development Co-operative (Union Co-operative) has purchased two apartment buildings at 475-477 Lancaster Street West, Kitchener, to preserve affordability for tenants. This is Union Co-operative’s first property purchase, a milestone that reflects its mission to buy residential and commercial properties in Waterloo Region for permanent affordability through community ownership.
An established community with many long-term tenants, the Lancaster buildings have 58 two-bedroom units. Union Co-operative plans to add another two accessible apartments within the existing buildings, and to undertake projects that reduce the buildings’ environmental impacts and energy consumption.
More than 200 individuals who live, work, or have a connection to Waterloo Region have chosen to become members of Union Co-operative. Members were able to invest in the purchase of the Lancaster buildings.
In addition to member investments, a number of impact investors came on board to support the purchase: Waterloo Region Community Foundation, Lyle S. Hallman Foundation, Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund, Vancity Community Foundation, Atkinson Foundation, Fairmount Foundation, VERGE Capital, Bealight Foundation, Forthlane Partners, Nexus Church, Kelly and Mike Peasgood, and Allyson and Dave Kroetsch. By bringing together community members and impact investors to purchase this property, Union Co-operative has built a unique model to serve as Waterloo Region’s community land trust.
Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB) provided first mortgage financing of $8.45 million and helped the project secure additional impact investment funds from the Affordable Housing Accelerator Fund at Vancity Community Foundation. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with VCIB, as they have a deep understanding of affordable housing and their values-based approach means they work with you to make these projects a success,” said Union Co-operative’s Executive Director, Sean Campbell.
Union Co-operative received an additional $1.5 million in fixed-interest bridge financing from the Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund (CCIF). This bridge financing allowed Union Co-operative to complete the purchase on market timelines and continue raising funds after closing.
The population of the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo area grew by 9.9% from 2016 to 2021. That growth, alongside galloping price increases in the housing market and recent inflationary pressures, has meant that the cost to rent a vacant two-bedroom unit in Kitchener has increased by 24% in the past year to $2,300 per month. While there are much-needed government programs to build new affordable units, there are currently no programs to preserve existing low-rent apartment units.
“Preserving affordability is just the first step,” said Campbell. “We’re excited to invite tenants to become co-op members, join the board, and collaborate on sustainable property improvement decisions.” The co-operative is also planning to create a rent relief fund, connect with community organizations to establish supports for tenants in need, and develop policies that will guide the intentional selection of tenants facing barriers to accessing housing. “Union Co-operative is working to make a difference in our community, and we’re thankful to our members, impact investors, funders, and VCIB for helping to make the acquisition of our first property a reality.”
Waterloo Region Community Foundation (WRCF) was the first foundation impact investor to join the project. “WRCF continues to focus on taking action to create and preserve affordable housing across our region,” said John Bowden, WRCF’s Director of Financial Services. “We applaud Union Co-operative for their innovative approach in our community and we are extremely pleased to be joined by other impact investors on this journey.”
“The partnership between Union Co-operative, impact investors, and Vancity Community Investment Bank is an inspirational example of what can be done to solve the affordability crisis,” said Jennifer Hutcheon, Vice President at VCIB. “I’m so pleased that VCIB could support this impactful deal, which will result in real—even life-changing— benefits to the individuals and families who call the Lancaster buildings home.”
Learn more about Union Co-operative and its commitment to preserving affordability in Waterloo Region at unionsd.coop. Details on the Vancity Group’s commitment to affordable housing and the Affordable Housing Accelerator Fund can be found on Rethink and vahaf.ca.
About Union: Sustainable Development Co-operative (Union Co-operative)
Union Co-operative is working to buy residential and commercial properties in Waterloo Region for permanent affordability through community ownership. The co-operative was founded in response to rising rental rates in Waterloo Region that are becoming unaffordable for a growing share of residents and local businesses. Learn more about Union Co-operative at www.unionsd.coop.
About Waterloo Region Community Foundation (WRCF)
Waterloo Region Community Foundation collaborates with partners to create sustainable, equitable and thriving communities. We connect regionally and locally, working with three cities and four townships – to include the people and places across our region. Together, we develop forward-thinking innovative solutions and seize opportunities to meet current and future needs of our community. We make philanthropy easy for individuals and companies to support organizations and issues they care about. WRCF is focused on Granting, Impact Investing and Convening to make measurable and sustainable impacts. Gifts are directed to WRCF’s endowed funds that drive positive change through grants with the income generated being distributed in partnership with Fundholders to support a wide range of charitable causes within our community. A portion of the endowed funds are also used for impact investments that deliver both financial returns as well as positive social or environmental outcomes. As a leading community-building organization we also work to amplify voices and issues of importance by convening conversations and sharing information, while approaching our work with an equity mindset.
About the Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund (CCIF)
The Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund is an impact investment fund created to support the capital needs of co-operatives across sectors, across Canada. CCIF provides debt, bridge financing, hybrid and equity financing for non-profit and for-profit co-operatives to start up and to help them grow. To find out more about CCIF and the financing available to help co-operatives, visit ccif.coop or email email@example.com.
About Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB)
Vancity Community Investment Bank is an Ontario-based, Schedule I federally chartered bank and a subsidiary of the Vancity Group. As the only values-based bank in Canada, VCIB provides specialized financing solutions for impactful projects like social purpose real estate and clean energy projects. For purpose-driven businesses and organizations, VCIB offers banking, investing, and financing solutions tailor-made to increase their growth and impact. VCIB is a Certified B Corporation and a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. To learn more about our partnership-based approach to banking, visit vcib.ca, tweet us at @BankVancity and connect with us on LinkedIn.