Housing affordability continues to be a big issue in Toronto. With record high housing costs and not nearly enough amounts of public investment being made in affordable housing, the Client, IMFG, was interested in examining how the private sector could help and the sort of interventions that could have an impact. ThinkFresh collaborated with IMFG to co-write an IMFG Perspectives paper exploring the issue and helped organize a public lecture on the topic.
After reviewing case studies from around the world and identifying some of the prevailing trends in housing in Ontario, we set out to write a paper that would look at the issues objectively and offer some international examples as inspiration. The paper elegantly made the case on why there was a dire need for more investment, how there would be very little new public money forthcoming and examining some of the barriers that prevent the private sector from helping out. We then offered some potential levers that could help and used the case studies to demonstrate what could be possible.
For the public lecture, we invited Doris Koo, former president of the US housing syndicator Enterprise Community Partners to come and speak about some of the models being used south of the border. Among the more interesting solutions is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, issued by the federal government and has been funding over 90% of all new affordable housing in the US since the 1980’s. Other initiatives include affordable rental preservation funds – to revitalize and preserve existing stock – and experimenting with new tools such as social impact bonds in homelessness prevention. The biggest insight came in Doris’ introductory remarks where she stated that the key to housing is to treat it as a real estate problem – requiring real estate market based solutions. Anything else will not be sustainable.
Being a part of this project gave us much more insight into the housing system in Ontario and we learned a lot about housing financing and market based solutions. We look forward to continuing to be part of the discussion around housing in Toronto.
- Affordable Housing in Ontario: Mobilizing Private Capital in an Era of Public Constraint (April 12, 2013): Affordable housing paper co-authored with André Côté – Manager, Programs and Research at the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG) at the University of Toronto.
- Mobilizing Private Investment in Affordable Housing: Lessons from the United States (April 16, 2013): Public lecture with Doris Koo, former president of Enterprise Community Partners – includes photos and Doris’ slide deck.