The Centre for Urban Research and Land Development published a blog post recently, listing a few creative ways to build affordable housing in markets that have become expensive.
As part of a 2018 National Housing Week event hosted by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Options for Homes, CUR put together an exhibit of innovative ways other countries are making housing more affordable. Perhaps Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area can learn something from these markets!
Government has to invest more and be smarter with funding
According to CUR, 80% of Vienna’s population live in housing subsidized by the government, which means all these people spend no more than 30% of their monthly income on shelter costs.
Austria commits 0.5% of its GDP to housing initiatives and programs. The federal government provided nearly $675 million to Vienna in 2017 for housing, and Vienna invested another $700 million. The funds are distributed to the private for-profit and non-profit sectors. Overall, Vienna spends $482 per person on housing, while the City of Toronto only spends $310. This gap isn’t super wide, but CUR points out that Vienna is definitely getting a “better bang for its buck.”
Collaboration is key
It looks like housing projects with many stakeholders, including developers, government, and financial systems, have better outcomes. CUR uses Via Verde, a 222-unit affordable housing project in the Bronx as an example.
The award-winning community was successful thanks to New York City providing subsidies, tax incentives, and underutilized land for development. The community features bungalows, duplexes, live/work units, and townhomes.
CUR shares a few more examples where numerous stakeholders come together to collaborate, and it’s not always about money and land. There are a couple examples of trades, designers, and architects working together on housing developments with great success.
Governments need to think bigger
Housing incentives exist, but all levels of government in Canada need to think bigger when it comes to how these initiatives impact the market. CUR tips their hat to the City of Toronto for its recent laneway housing policy. But, they also point out that Portland and Seattle have similar programs that allow for more uses of land in single-detached neighbourhoods. The more flexible policies allow for different housing types, which leads to more units being built.
It’s time to embrace new/current technology
3D printing has been around for a while now, but we’re still not seeing it used in mainstream housing developments. According to CUR, there’s a small home in Texas that was completely 3D printed, and it took 48 hours to build and cost $10,000. And there’s a larger four-bedroom home in France that was 3D printed in 58 hours and cost just under $255,000.
When you read all of CUR’s examples of creative approaches to building and developing affordable housing, you realize how Toronto
and Canada have fallen behind in government policy and technology. We’re curious to see if any innovative programs are announced in 2019.