New Housing Toolkit Promotes Innovative Housing Practices for Local Governments

As Canada grapples with a nationwide housing crisis, the focus on affordability has reached a critical juncture. While federal and provincial governments often take the spotlight in addressing the challenge, it is crucial to recognize the pivotal role that local governments play in the creation of more affordable housing stock. Local governments possess an array of tools that can influence housing costs, including zoning regulations, development charges, density bonuses, and property taxes. 

In an effort to empower municipalities across Canada, Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria (CSPC) is launching the “Local Government Levers for Housing Affordability” toolkit with funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). 

The toolkit provides a comprehensive overview of various tools and their municipal context, enabling local governments to make informed decisions. The toolkit highlights key tools and examples of policies and practices which are intended to make a difference in housing affordability, while addressing common challenges and proposing practical solutions. The toolkit also showcases illustrative scenarios that highlight successes in implementing these tools across diverse municipal contexts and addressing varying degrees of housing needs and affordability from coast to coast.  

Municipalities are at the forefront of the affordability challenges facing Canadian cities, and it is essential that they maximize all available avenues to improve housing availability and affordability. Unaffordability throughout our communities can drive individuals to seek more affordable living conditions elsewhere, resulting in labour shortages and stunted economic growth at a national level. Affordable housing is not just a social imperative but an economic necessity that supports business and individual prosperity, reinforcing local economies. We hope that by using this toolkit, local governments will be able to change their communities for the better, to become more affordable, prosperous, and inclusive.  

The launch of this toolkit marks a significant step towards a more optimistic future for housing availability and affordability in Canada. By recognizing the vital role of municipalities and providing them with the necessary tools and knowledge, we can collectively address our housing crisis.

We encourage Local Governments to look into the CMHC's Housing Accelerator Fund which aims to fund initiatives to increase housing supply.

Published June 27, 2023 

Author(s):

Khadoni Pitt Chambers, Research Coordinator

Aza Bryson-Bucci, Research Coordinator

Untitled design (18)
Aza (500 × 500 px)

Whether it be climate equity, community innovation, housing affordability, or economic justice, be a part of the conversation when you sign up for our monthly newsletter!

Local Government Levers for Housing Affordability

As we navigate in an era marked by a nation-wide housing crisis, all levels of government are under pressure to address the challenge, although local governments are on the front lines. Municipalities also hold a pivotal role in orchestrating the changes needed to address the affordability challenges facing Canadian cities. This toolkit outlines the many levers within municipal control that can significantly influence housing supply and affordability.

This toolkit is intended to help local governments across Canada, big and small, to understand and utilize all of the tools available to improve housing affordability by:

• providing an overview of tools and their municipal context;
• identifying success factors and key considerations for each of the tools; and
• sharing case studies and best practices that highlight successes in implementing the tools in a range of municipal contexts and for a diversity of housing types.

The optimal use of these municipal tools can change the trajectory of our current housing situation, creating a better future for housing availability and affordability.

Lessons From Helsinki: Homelessness & Housing First Approaches

This event focuses on lessons from Finland in utilizing the Housing First Model.

This model has been successfully implemented in other cities and countries globally. In Finland this model is credited with helping to virtually eliminate experiences of homelessness. While more hidden forms of homelessness remain, such as staying with friends informally, this model has been successful at providing housing with dignity to thousands of Finnish residents.

Joining us at this event is Saija Turunen, who will share their experience with this model’s application in Finland. Also, Housing First Expert, Dr. Deborah K. Padgett, will be sharing her expertise related to this model. Additionally, this event will feature a community response, where local experts, including Nicole Chaland, will speak to this model’s applicability to our region. See below for a full list of panelists at the event.

Panelists include:

  • Saija Turunen - Head of Research, Y-Foundation, Finland
  • Deborah K. Padgett - Professor; McSilver Faculty Fellow; Affiliated Faculty, Department of Anthropology and College of Global Public Health, NYU
  • Nicole Chaland - Co-Lead: The Housing Justice Project, University of Victoria

---

The CSPC acknowledges the Songhees, Esquimalt, Tsartlip/W̱JOȽEȽP, Tseycum/WSIḴEM, Tsawout/SȾÁUTW, Pauquachin/BOḰEĆEN, T’Sou-ke, Scia’new and Pacheedaht Nations who have a historical and ongoing relationship to the land where our offices and work are based.

We also respect the wide diversity of nations and languages across the province. British Columbia is home to over 200 First Nations communities and approximately 50% of the First Peoples’ languages of Canada. For more information visit: https://maps.fpcc.ca/

Family By Design: Designing Cities for Families

How can we design our region to be suitable for children and families?

Considering housing affordability concerns, residents can experience challenges when looking for housing suitable for families. This event will focus on regional needs for family housing and speak to Canadian municipalities that have implemented innovative tools and policies for family friendly cities.

Other topics such as affordable housing, access to quality education, safe and accessible public spaces, sustainable transportation options, and community support systems will be discussed.

The goal of this event is to promote the design and development of cities that are not only functional but also conducive to family life, fostering a sense of community, belonging, and well-being for all residents.

---

The CSPC acknowledges the Songhees, Esquimalt, Tsartlip/W̱JOȽEȽP, Tseycum/WSIḴEM, Tsawout/SȾÁUTW, Pauquachin/BOḰEĆEN, T’Sou-ke, Scia’new and Pacheedaht Nations who have a historical and ongoing relationship to the land where our offices and work are based.

We also respect the wide diversity of nations and languages across the province. British Columbia is home to over 200 First Nations communities and approximately 50% of the First Peoples’ languages of Canada. For more information visit: https://maps.fpcc.ca/

Executive Director Update

The critical role of social planning in creating sustainable and vibrant communities cannot be overstated. As such, I am pleased to share important updates from the Community Social Planning Council (CSPC) regarding our efforts towards achieving more just and equitable communities in Greater Victoria. Our recent activities include addressing issues related to homelessness, gender equity, and housing affordability across the region. 

We recently conducted a bi-annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count and Survey in partnership with the Capital Regional District (CRD) and the Alliance to End Homelessness in the Capital Region. We'd like to say a special thank you to the participants who came forward to share their stories and for their patience with the surveyors. We are thrilled to have had over 200 volunteers working in the HQ and on route throughout the region. Thank you to all of those who sponsored and funded this years count and survey, your dedication to the community is admirable! The survey findings in July will inform plans for both short and long-term solutions to homelessness. 

On International Women's Day, we reflected on the ongoing gender pay gap in the CRD, which is not only important for gender equity (SDG 5), but also for promoting economic growth and reducing inequality (SDG 8). To raise awareness and encourage action, CSPC shared a fact sheet on the gender pay gap in the CRD that highlights key strategies and policies that can help achieve gender equity in the workplace. 

On March 6, 2023, the CSPC and City of Colwood hosted Councillor Learning Session: Municipal Levers for Housing Affordability with Brent Toderian as a keynote speaker to emphasize the importance of building complete neighborhoods that support affordability. The event is part of the Regional Housing Affordability Project which supported the creation of a community of practice to share local learning and best practices, compiling local policies and practices, and engaging with municipal, business, and community partners. In phase two, the City of Colwood plans to expand the project's toolkit, update housing needs reports, and continue offering regional workshops. The Regional Housing Affordability Project aims to create more just and equitable communities, contributing to larger efforts to create a better city for everyone across municipal boundaries. 

Although these are positive steps, there is still much to do. Looking ahead, we have several upcoming events that focus on important issues related to social planning and equity.  On April 18, we are hosting a webinar titled "Revitalizing Downtown Spaces in a Hybrid Work Environment." This event will bring together experts, community members, and decision-makers to discuss the future of downtown spaces in light of changing work patterns.  

On April 25, we are hosting a workshop titled "Family By Design: Designing Cities for Families". The workshop will focus on strategies for building better family environments throughout the region. 

Finally, on May 2, we are hosting a lunch and learn titled "Homelessness, Housing, and Human Rights: A look at Housing First Approach”. We will highlight data from cities such as Helsinki where they have utilized a housing first approach to effectively reduce homelessness and build thriving communities for their residents. 

It is important to align our efforts towards creating more just and equitable communities with the global goals for sustainable development. Proper social planning is crucial in achieving our community goals and ensuring a better future for everyone. As we work towards these goals locally, we must remember that they are interconnected with larger provincial, federal, and global efforts to create a better world for all. Let's continue to promote social inclusion, advocate for fair pay practices, and support affordable housing to create sustainable and vibrant communities that contribute to a larger global effort. Stay updated on our efforts and upcoming events by following the CSPC's social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Join us in spreading awareness about the importance of these issues by sharing this with your friends and family.

Published: March 10, 2023

Author(s):

Diana Gibson, Executive Director

Diana

Family Day Factsheet: No Family Left Behind 2023

As part of the Happiness and Wellbeing Lab project, the United Way South Vancouver Island and Community Council release an annual family day fact sheet. The fact sheet brings awareness that even though we may all be in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. As we celebrate this BC Family Day, let's make sure that No Family Gets Left Behind. 

1
2

They Paved Paradise: Transforming Minimum Parking Requirements Event

Did you know it’s estimated that creating one required parking spot can add an additional 10 to 15 percent to overall development costs?

As our housing unaffordability and cost of living crisis continue to put communities under pressure, policy makers and advocates are looking at a new solution: transforming our minimum parking requirements (MPRs). This shift could not only get us closer to our poverty reduction goals, but also address climate change and help create a more livable region.

Joined by guest speakers with experience transforming parking minimums in cities across North America, we’ll discuss key questions such as:

How do you envision communities changing with a shift away from MPRs?

What were some of the challenges faced by city council, staff, and the public when transforming MPRs in your community?

What are the potential or experienced impacts of MPR removal?

---

The CSPC acknowledges the Songhees, Esquimalt, Tsartlip/W̱JOȽEȽP, Tseycum/WSIḴEM, Tsawout/SȾÁUTW, Pauquachin/BOḰEĆEN, T’Sou-ke, Scia’new and Pacheedaht Nations who have a historical and ongoing relationship to the land where our offices and work are based.

We also respect the wide diversity of nations and languages across the province. British Columbia is home to over 200 First Nations communities and approximately 50% of the First Peoples’ languages of Canada. For more information visit: https://maps.fpcc.ca/

Affordability Targets Needed as David Eby Releases Housing Plan

Community Council report spotlights the need for affordability targets as David Eby announces B.C. affordable housing plan

GREATER VICTORIA: The Community social planning Council is pleased to see action provincially on housing.

The announcement of the move towards setting housing targets is welcome but there has been no mention of how affordability will be part of those targets. A recent report from the Community Council on housing needs data: Filling the Gap identifies the serious need for housing for households with lower incomes.

"This legislation will move the needle on the housing crisis if the housing targets specify not just how much, but also who needs housing, what kind, and at what cost." says report author, Nicole Chaland, "If the targets do not specify this, aiming at them will be like shooting in the dark." 

The report shows that in Greater Victoria there is an existing deficit of nearly 3,500 homes that rent for $375 each month and 14,200 homes that rent for less than $875 monthly.

"We have seen that supply alone is not going to resolve the housing crisis," says Diana Gibson, Executive Director of the Community Council, "Housing costs were a key factor in the living wage jumping 20% this year - affordability needs to be a strong focus in any targets that are set by the government."

The report partners with the HART (Housing Assessment Resource Tools) project based at the University of British Columbia. Hart is developing standardized ways to measure and address housing need, with a focus on improving the balanced supply of housing.  

According to Craig Jones, HART Coordinator, "provincial-municipal targets will need to be linked to robust, equity-focused, data. " He adds, "Our tool measures housing need by income group with intersectionality that allows us to look at housing needs for priority populations such as single parents."

Victoria

(City of Victoria)

Eqsuimalt

(Township of Esquimalt)

Saanich

(District of Saanich)

Making Affordable Housing Happen: Non-profit Solutions for Cities

What is affordable? What can municipalities and the non-profit sector do to help achieve affordability?

Housing affordability has been out of reach for many people living in our communities for a substantial period of time. A change to the status quo is necessary in order to develop a healthy economy where housing serves as a home and a place of shelter, not just an asset.

Join us from 12:30-2pm PST on November 16th as municipal leaders in the non-profit field discuss non-market solutions to the housing crisis. Past reports and webinars such as the Housing Needs Assessment, Drivers of Homelessness, and Tenant Displacement Protection will provide a base for much of the conversation.

Stick around for the last 30 minutes of the webinar for the Community Social Planning Council's AGM.

Speakers at the event will include:

  • Jill Atkey, CEO of BC Non-profit Housing Association
  • Kathy Stinson, CEO, Cool Aid Society
  • Carolina Ibarra, CEO, Pacifica Housing
  • Corinne Saad, Executive Director, Gorge View Society

This event is part of the CSPC's continuing dialogue on housing affordability, learn about our initiatives here.

Watch the recording here

The CSPC acknowledges the Songhees, Esquimalt, Tsartlip/W̱JOȽEȽP, Tseycum/WSIḴEM, Tsawout/SȾÁUTW, Pauquachin/BOḰEĆEN, T’Sou-ke, Scia’new and Pacheedaht Nations who have a historical and ongoing relationship to the land where our offices and work are based. We commit to active listening and humility in working with Indigenous Peoples.