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A section of Kensington Market will soon be owned by the community — if they can foot the $4M bill

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A local land trust in Toronto’s Kensington Market has penned an agreement to acquire two new properties, moving them into the hands of the community and promising to keep them affordable.

The two properties, found at 27 and 29 Kensington Avenue, come with a price tag of approximately $4 million – a sum the Kensington Community Land Trust is now working to raise.

“We have an agreement to purchase the property – we don't have $4 million,” Kevin Barrett, co-founder of the trust, told CTV News Toronto Monday. “So, we're in the midst of a fairly aggressive fundraising and community investment campaign.”

The trust, which purchased two other properties in Kensington Market in 2021, works to acquire local real estate in the area, taking it off the market and keeping it affordable.

“We've been monitoring the real estate market since we came into existence and we discovered that those two properties, 27 and 29, were in fact on the market,” Barrett said.

“The thing about these kinds of purchases is that you have to be nimble, you have to be quick,” Dominique Russell, the trust’s other co-founder, added.

“Because when the opportunity is gone, it's gone. It will go into the developer's hands and there's nothing we will be able to do about it,” she said.

So, after becoming aware that the two Kensington Avenue properties had been listed on the market, the group said they were quick to act.

“We submitted an offer for their asking price with an explanation that, while we may not be the highest offer, we're a community group interested in preserving the legacy of those buildings,” Barrett said. “We hoped that they'll look favorably on our offer and they did.”

26, 27 Kensington Avenue can be seen above. (KMCLT)

The group intends to preserve the property’s current occupants, which include two commercial businesses on the ground level and six tenants living in residential units above, and keep the building affordable.

“We're trying to keep the neighborhood affordable, to keep the kind of mixed-use buildings that exist now,” Barrett said.

“We're of the opinion that the city benefits a lot from Kensington Market,” he added. “We're a pretty special, vibrant neighborhood, so we're working hard to keep the true character of Kensington alive.”

To meet their $4 million goal, they are looking for a contribution of at least $1 million from the city.

“We're really hopeful the city will use some of its discretionary funding to support this,” Barrett said. “Traditionally in this ward, there has been a significant amount of that money allocated to affordable housing projects, so we're hoping Councillor Diane Saxe will agree to do that same thing.”

The project could also receive municipal funding through the city’s Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA) program, the group said, which works to preserve affordable housing for Torontonians.

“It's a good moment for the city to step up,” Russell echoed.

When reached for comment, Cllr. Saxe told CTV News Toronto she lauded the work of the land trust.

“The land trust has done some wonderful work managing older buildings when federal or provincial money is available to purchase them,” the councillor said in a statement.

“The City of Toronto has a modest MURA fund for the purchase and preservation of older multi-unit residential buildings, and I have encouraged the land trust to apply there. The city had hoped to add more money to this fund, but Ford’s cuts have made that impossible.” 

As for the remaining funds, the group is largely looking for public support. 

To support the work of the Kensington Community Land Trust, individuals can become a member or make a donation online. The group is also in the beginning stages of launching a community bond offering, which will serve as a way for people to support the initiative with a guarantee on return. 

The Kensington Market Community Land Trust outside 54-56 Kensington Avenue (Courtesy of KMCLT/RYAN RUBIN)

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