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A million new non-market homes in 10 years: That should be the goal – Policy Options

November 21, 2023

After 40 years of inaction on low-income housing, the stock of social and affordable housing needs to double. There are five ways to finance it.

From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, between 10 and 25 per cent of new housing construction in Canada was non-market: 20,000 to 40,000 public, community and co-op homes a year.

But since 1992 when the federal government downloaded responsibility for social housing policy to the provinces, only 50,000 net non-market homes have been produced, given the loss of 183,019 low-cost homes due to the end of ongoing housing subsidies from the federal government.

A reliance on private-market supply has not met the need for low- and moderate-income housing over the past three decades. Despite the use of direct subsidies and measures such as inclusionary zoning, which requires new residential developments to include affordable units, there is a huge accumulated housing deficit, particularly units affordable for Canadians with the lowest incomes.

As a starting point, researchers with the Housing Assessment Resource Tools (HART) project at the University of British Columbia suggest a goal of six million new homes be built in the next decade, with at least one million of these being non-market, doubling the current stock.

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