What is 'affordable housing'?

When people talk about ‘affordable housing’, what do they mean?

For most places in Canada, housing affordability is a challenge for people earning below the 60th income percentile for their community. This means even two-income working families can be affected by this issue, as are seniors, singles, and persons with a special care need. ‘Affordable housing’ is an issue that extends beyond the four walls and a roof. Housing stabilizes people, enabling them to focus on improved education and employment to move ‘along the continuum’ to full participation in the housing market and market economy.

Housing Continuum Image Courtesy United Way of Halifax (Canada)

Why is affordable housing important for communities and developers?

The business case for ensuring there are adequate, appropriate housing options for everyone in society is well documented. The Centre for Economic and Business Research studied the return on investment in the housing continuum, creating a ‘complete’ local housing market. They found the contribution to the local economy resulting from housing solutions to be significant (£41m per day in the city of London, UK) and noted employers cannot attract and retain the talent they require when the local housing market is not ‘complete’. Vancouver’s Board of Trade agree; an incomplete housing market is affecting local economic performance. Affordable housing is an issue for communities of all sizes.

What insights have we gained to help our clients with this challenging issue?

Affordable housing is not an ‘individual sport’… it takes collaborative effort and a well-developed network of players from finance, real estate, land development, home building, NGOs, social agencies, and all levels of government. We help connect people, starting conversations that lead to the innovation necessary for a successful project.

Successful projects require a supportive policy and regulatory environment. We have extensive experience in writing and advocating for policies that address the market failures causing housing supply and access challenges.

Successful projects also take good planning. We know that each housing project requires solid data and sound analysis. We are experienced at identifying affordable housing need and demand;we understand the funding and finance landscape; and we have developed business plans and provided technical support to NGOs and developers that are investment and ‘shovel ready’.

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