One in five Canadian households struggles with housing affordability

OTTAWA, March 30 /CNW Telbec/ - Twenty per cent of Canadian households struggle to afford their homes because of a gap in the supply of affordable housing provided by the private market. This shortage negatively affects Canadians' health, which, in turn, reduces national productivity and competitiveness, according to a landmark Conference Board of Canada study released today.

Building From the Ground Up: Enhancing Affordable Housing in Canada makes the case for developers, governments and civil society organizations to work together to expand the supply of quality affordable housing. The report highlights effective models for financing, building and operating such homes, and introduces a collection of diagnostic and planning tools for planners, private sector developers and non-profit organizations.

"The quality and cost of housing are major factors in the health of Canadians. However, about one-fifth of Canadian households do not have the resources to afford both good-quality homes and other health-enhancing expenditures, such as nutritious food or access to recreational activities," said Diana MacKay, Director, Education and Health.

According to one common measure, housing is considered "unaffordable" when it consumes more than 30 per cent of before-tax income. By this measure, about 75 per cent of Canadian households live in homes they can afford, and another five per cent are subsidized to live in public or social housing. That leaves about 20 per cent of Canadian households struggling to afford their homes without additional support. For a variety of reasons, most developers have tended to focus on building homes that are most easily afforded by those in the top income quintiles, leaving many lower and middle-income households underserved by the private market.

Private-sector developers, governments and civil society organizations have important roles in alleviating the problem of housing affordability. The private sector in particular should assume a more prominent place, as it tends to be very efficient and innovative, which helps to drive down housing costs.

"Developers can be helped to build more affordable housing units through a combination of incentives and assistance from government, and increased awareness of the opportunities to make a profit serving this segment of the market," said MacKay.

Governments are most effective at establishing building parameters and engineering deals to encourage the development of more affordable units, without directly taking part in the execution of projects. Civil society organizations, which include non-profit developers and operators and a wide range of social assistance and religious agencies, are efficient operators of affordable housing because they have low costs, a passion for their work, and valuable "on-the-ground" perspective. These conclusions are based on an extensive data analysis and review of literature, as well as 65 interviews with experts and practitioners and 11 case studies of innovative practices, which include:

Innovations by Governments - Incentive Strategies

Model 1 - Inclusionary zoning

Model 2 - Adding affordable units through density bonuses

Innovations by Governments - Funding Strategies

Model 3 - Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness: The Plan for Alberta

Model 4 - First Nations Market Housing Fund

Innovations in Building

Model 5 - Lowering Costs Through Construction Innovation

Model 6 - Reducing Unit Costs through Design Innovation

Innovations in Finance

Model 7 - Vancity's Springboard Home Ownership Program

Model 8 - Options for Homes

Innovations in Linking Transitions to Housing

Model 9 - The YMCA Approach

Model 10 - Supportive Shelter for Homeless People

Model 11 - John Howard Society Tiered Housing Model

The study received funding from provincial housing authorities across Canada. The scope, methodology, and findings in this report were determined solely by The Conference Board of Canada. The report is published as part of the research program of the Conference Board's Roundtable on the Socio-Economic Determinants of Health. It is publicly available at www.e-library.ca.

SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

For further information: For further information: Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, Tel.: (613) 526-3090 ext. 448, E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca


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