What Australia Can Learn From Canada’s Approach to Affordable Housing
Thursday, 19th April 2018 at 4:46 pm
A Canadian community housing expert says Australia can learn from Canada’s success implementing a National Housing Strategy, but warned that developing a strategy requires broad consultation and the support of “political champions”.
Derek Ballantyne is the incoming chair of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and on Monday delivered the keynote address at Community Housing Industry Association Victoria’s (CHIA Vic) 2018 conference.
Ballantyne discussed Canada’s new National Housing Strategy – which will be implemented by the CMHC – and its role remedying housing affordability challenges facing the country.
He told Pro Bono News that Canada and Australia shared similar issues around housing.
“In many ways these same sorts of issues exist in both nations in terms of a lack of affordable housing, how to engage new sources of capital into it and how to leverage value back into the system,” Ballantyne said.
Australia can learn from Canada’s success implementing a National Housing Strategy, Ballantyne believes, but he noted that its development was the result of a long consultative process.
“This was not something that just happened overnight but was called for and worked on by a large number of community groups and businesses [who wanted] a national strategy that could guide spending and support for housing affordability,” he said.
“So this is a long process and one that requires consensus building and engagement with a variety of stakeholders.”
Ballantyne warned that Australia needed political leaders to champion the cause of a national strategy.
“You need to get some political purchase for this. A housing strategy won’t come about without political champions,” he said.
“In Canada we were fortunate enough to be able to find them and we went through an intensive two year period of consultation with stakeholders generating the elements of the strategy.
“We also had a government which was very supportive of tackling housing affordability in a more strategic way, rather than simply by launching another program and not really having it linked to an overall set of outcomes.”
Ballantyne added that the community housing sector had a significant role to play in such a strategy, working alongside government.
He said it was critically important the community sector clearly articulated what it thought should be components of a national strategy, as well as the ideal outcomes of such a scheme.
“Having a focus on the outcomes and on what you’re trying to do is important and I think the community housing sector has an important voice in that kind of conversation,” Ballantyne said.
“There is no doubt that the community housing sector is going to be the key delivery agent… because ultimately it is a sector that is motivated to create and preserve long-term affordability.
“That’s not to say that the private development industry and the private rental industry is not equally important, but it is the community sector that will drive the deepest affordability and the most creative responses.”
The community sector has recently called on the government to develop a national housing strategy, in order to meet an identified shortfall of 500,000 social and affordable rental homes.
The Everybody’s Home campaign said a national housing strategy should include new capital investment to generate 300,000 new social and Indigenous housing properties, and a new tax incentive or direct subsidy to entice private sector investment in 200,000 low cost rental properties.
Labor’s shadow minister for housing and homelessness, Senator Doug Cameron, told Pro Bono News in March that Labor broadly agreed that there was a need to develop a national housing strategy and would “have more to say” on housing policy in the near future.