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CHRA’s Blueprint for Housing - Community Housing Supply: Meeting the needs of the next generation

01 Dec 2022

By Leah Blunden, CHRA Communications Manager

 

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 needs more community housing stock. According to CMHC, there are currently approximately 1.7 million households considered to be in core housing need in Canada, spending over 30% of household income on housing costs. The second chapter of the Blueprint contains recommendations for tools and initiatives that the federal government can use to increase the net supply of community housing over the coming decades. Read on to see a summary of these recommendations.

 

Ensuring the provision of land for community housing development

Land acquisition is one of the biggest cost components of developing new community housing. Acquiring supply of serviceable land that is close to amenities, mass transit, greenspace and other desirable considerations is difficult task for community housing providers.

Although the Rapid Housing Initiative and the Federal Lands Initiative provide some support, they are insufficient to meet the land needs required for new development.

Recommendation: The introduction of a dedicated permanent land acquisition policy that would allow the federal government to acquire and transfer provincial, territorial, municipal, and/or private sector lands for the purpose of community housing development.

 

Increasing the rate of community housing development

We propose an ambitious, but realistic goal to double the proportion of housing in Canada considered community housing by the year 2035, moving Canada from approximately 5% of the housing stock considered affordable to at least 10%. This would build a buffer of long-term, affordable housing for those in greatest need.

Recommendation: The establishment of a long-term national objective and annual targets for the creation of new community housing units in Canada with a minimum objective of doubling the proportion of community housing units by 2035.

 

Making funding applications more accessible

The federal government, operating through CMHC, has put in place a number of programs designed to increase the supply of affordable housing – the National Housing Co-Investment Fund and the Rental Construction Financing Initiative are two of the most recent examples. However, for many years CHRA members have expressed concern about the complex application processes for these programs.

As a long-term policy objective, greater alignment between supply funding programs among orders of government would be a significant improvement in the housing development process, allowing for a more seamless and faster path by which new housing developments could be funded and approved.

Recommendation: The development of integrated, aligned application processes to funding programs at all levels of government which are created in consultation with the affordable housing sector to ensure application requirements are accessible to community housing providers.

 

Making property acquisition simpler

In 2020, the federal government introduced the RHI, a program designed, among other things, to provide housing providers and municipalities with funding to acquire non-residential buildings and land for the purposes of converting them to affordable housing.

The existing RHI program only permits the acquisition of non-residential properties. A permanent acquisition program should include greater flexibility by also allowing for acquisition of residential and non-residential buildings.

Recommendation: The creation of a permanent program that would allow community housing providers to acquire residential or non-residential buildings for the purposes of converting them to affordable housing units.

 

Building professionalism and capacity in the housing sector

The community housing sector is incredibly innovative; for decades it has survived and sustained itself with limited resources and public support. If the sector is to grow and expand, it will require a workforce with the right skills and education to lead significant development projects.

Expanding the reach of programs such as CIH Canada is paramount to developing the capacity of the community housing sector.

Recommendation: The addition of skills development and human resource capacity growth as eligible expenses in all current and future capital programs and prioritization of the development and scaling up of materials and opportunities to professionalize the community housing workforce as part of future innovation and research-related initiatives undertaken by CMHC.

 

Maximizing the effectiveness of the Housing Accelerator Fund

During the Blueprint consultation period, CHRA members repeatedly noted barriers to increasing capacity at a local level, including slow zoning processes, development charges, long permitting processes, etc. Although the federal government has constitutional limits on its influence over municipalities and local housing policy, it can positively influence the development of more housing-friendly practices through two means: financial incentives and negotiation.

Recommendation: Implementation and monitoring of the effectiveness of the Housing Accelerator Fund, along with an ongoing discussion among municipalities facilitated by CMHC to share best practices on effective policies aimed at community housing development.

 

Combatting NIMBYism

NIMBYism is a significant barrier to new community housing development. Experienced most notably at a local or municipal level, NIMBYism can impede the development of new community housing, acting as an additional risk for the sector and for federal financing.

The 2017 National Housing Strategy promised a national promotional and public relations campaign aimed at promoting the value and impact of the community housing sector to counter NIMBYism, but such a campaign has not materialized.

Recommendation: The introduction of a federal public relations campaign designed to counter NIMBYism and promote the value of community housing in Canada.

 

Want to learn more about CHRA’s recommendations to increase Canada’s supply of community housing? Check out CHRA’s Blueprint for Housing.