by Steve Pomeroy

After decades of lobbying by advocates of affordable housing, the federal government has agreed to develop a national housing strategy. Given the multi-jurisdictional aspect and shared responsibilities of housing in Canada, such a comprehensive coordinated approach is a welcome initiative.

Provided that it is appropriately funded and supported, a national strategy can make an effective contribution to overcoming historical issues of both market failure and administrative public policy failure in Canada’s housing system.

The strategy must be broad in scope, embracing all elements of the housing system – the non-market low-income part, the intermediate rental sector and access to ownership, especially for millennials and first-time buyers.

In the affordable core need segment, greater attention must be paid to the role of provincial/territorial income assistance and housing allowances to complement housing programs.

Similarly, social housing providers must expand supports to proactively enable labour market reattachment and thereby improve both tenant income and ability to pay rents.

A distinct federal role remains as financier and funder of capital programs to complement provincial/territorial income assistance roles and to directly address Aboriginal housing need.

The rental sector is a critical component of the housing system but its role in the intermediate market has been largely overlooked, resulting in the erosion and undersupply of needed moderate rate rental options.

At the same time, ensuring access to the ownership ladder for millennial and other first-time buyers is critical to manage excess demand in the undersupplied rental sector.

A thoughtful, well-designed and proactive national strategy could go a long way to strengthening Canada’s housing system and generating better outcomes, especially for those currently priced out of the market.

Read the full paper prepared for the Caledon Institute of Social Policy here.