CHRA’s Blueprint for Housing: A “Team Canada” approach to housing
13 Jul 2023
CHRA’s Blueprint for Housing is an extensive policy document that will help inform CHRA’s advocacy efforts over the coming decade as we work towards our goal of ensuring that all who live in Canada have access to safe, affordable, appropriate housing.
Canada’s affordable housing crisis is worsening, and the community housing sector cannot solve it alone. We need a “Team Canada” approach to housing: rallying all levels of government, non-traditional actors, including the private sector, and people in communities across the country to address Canada’s housing woes.
The final chapter of the Blueprint discusses the elements of developing and executing a “Team Canada” Approach to Housing. Read on to learn more.
Creating partnerships to increase affordable housing development
Current federal tax policies act as a disincentive for many private sector organizations to build community housing. This has created an environment where private sector organizations profit more from eroding our affordable housing stock rather than increasing it. These policies also contribute to the financialization of housing: a serious threat to community housing and housing affordability in Canada.
Altering tax policy can incentivize the private sector to invest in community housing and curb financialization while also maintaining non-profit leadership in the community housing sector. This can be done by creating a tax incentive to create or renew affordable rental housing for low-to-moderate income households.
Recommendation: The creation of a Canadianized Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to incentivize private sector investment in affordable housing projects, while maintaining non-profit and municipal management.
Limiting the financialization of housing
Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are the primary driver of the financialization of affordable housing in Canada. They operate as publicly traded trusts that hold interests in real property, and are actively traded on major stock exchanges, such as the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). Data from the TSX indicates that between 2009 and 2019, the dollar value of Canadian REITs grew by 215%, signifying that an increasing number of Canadians are using them as investment vehicles.
The federal government must collaborate with provincial and territorial governments to advocate for the regulation of REITs to support behaviour that strengthens, rather than hinders, Canada’s community housing sector. Specific solutions remain to be determined, but regulatory change, in conjunction with complementary policy measures can curtail the financialization of Canada’s affordable housing stock.
Recommendation: Collaboration between the federal government and provincial and territorial governments to explore the regulation of real estate investment trusts to curtail the financialization of affordable housing.
Increasing housing across the housing spectrum
Various forms of red tape and regulatory barriers are a significant hurdle to creating affordable housing in Canada. Although there are examples of such barriers within federal programs and policies, many of these barriers lay at the provincial, territorial, or municipal levels. The federal government must use its spending power to incentivize the provinces and territories to reduce barriers to the creation of housing.
Recommendation: The addition of housing clauses in Infrastructure Bilateral Agreements between Infrastructure Canada and provincial and territorial partners that provide incentives to build the capacity of local authorities and redevelop existing assets to increase the supply of new homes across the housing spectrum.
Modernizing the housing sector
The affordable housing sector has responded to the growing housing shortfalls and tightening operating budgets of the last several years with a wave of innovation. These innovations, including novel construction methods, and other new technologies, practices, and programs have helped the sector create housing supply while reducing costs.
Additional resources to scale and implement innovative solutions that can be adopted throughout the housing sector are required.
Recommendation: The creation of a stream within CMHC’s Affordable Housing Innovation Fund that will develop innovative housing technologies and practices and provide capital funding for projects employing innovations that will lead to reduced costs, project timelines, and environmental footprint in future housing projects.
Want to learn more about CHRA’s recommendations for creating a ‘Team Canada’ approach to housing? Check out CHRA’s Blueprint for Housing.