Event summary produced by The Globe and Mail Events team. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.
The global pandemic has amplified shortfalls in Canada’s supply of affordable housing, especially for vulnerable populations. The challenge will require involvement and support by new and non-traditional partners such as hospitals, businesses and investors, according to a panel of experts who participated in The Globe and Mail’s Housing Partnerships webcast on November 23.
The discussion included Evan Siddall, president and CEO of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Carole Saab, CEO of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), Dr. Andrew Boozary, executive director of population health and social medicine with the University Health Network (UHN) and Michelle Killoran, principal with OMERS Ventures. Rita Trichur, senior business writer with The Globe and Mail, moderated the panel.
Watch the full discussion (60 minutes) below. Highlights from the conversation appear below the video.
Below are key takeaways from the conversation:
1). Solving the housing shortage will require more investment in purpose-built rentals
Evan Siddall, president and CEO of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) said addressing the housing crisis requires a shift in focus away from home ownership. The goal should be the creation of affordable rental units through new partnerships and investors, he said, adding it’s not enough to rely on government funding alone. He would like to see more private-sector organizations such as businesses care more about housing and the contribution they can make in driving affordable supply. Though there has been a significant amount of lending in the housing sector, much of it has gone toward condo development, but the lending is really needed for purpose-built rentals.
2). The pandemic has demonstrated how quickly housing can be provided
The global pandemic has created new urgency around housing, especially for vulnerable populations, said Carole Saab, CEO of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. One example of breaking through inertia is the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative, a $1-billion program set up to create 3,000 new permanent rental housing units. The initiative will also provide money for the construction of modular housing, acquisition of land and conversion of existing buildings to rental housing. It’s the first time the federal government and municipalities have cooperated in this manner, Ms. Saab said, adding the project also demonstrates how quickly progress can be made through partnerships.
3). Venture funding and technology are driving new housing projects
Ventures funds are investing in technology companies involved in real estate and housing, leading to creative new approaches, said Michelle Killoran, principal with OMERS Ventures in the San Francisco Bay area. She cited one example of a company called Landed, focused on helping essential workers such as teachers and healthcare providers raise money for a down-payment for a home. Other companies are supplying modular housing, 3D-printed housing and matchmaking platforms to help individuals access existing supply such as room rentals. These start-ups and technology companies are opening up housing options while delivering returns to investors, Ms. Killoran said.
4). Hospitals are catching up on the link between housing and health
Dr. Andrew Boozary, executive director of population health and social medicine with the University Health Network (UHN) is involved in a unique project with the City of Toronto and United Way Greater Toronto. UHN is committing land in Toronto for an affordable housing project aimed at easing overcrowding at UHN’s two acute-care hospitals. Dr. Boozary said UHN has committed to transfer the land to the city for $1.00 and the partners will work with the community to design the housing. The aim is to help break the cycle of hospitals admitting and readmitting vulnerable individuals due to a lack of adequate housing and community support services, he said, adding hospitals are starting to catch up on the connection between health and housing.
Watch the full discussion above.
The Globe and Mail presented the event with support from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).