Held at Cahdco’s flagship development, Beaver Barracks, the HSC SHARE Conference welcomed Keynote Speaker Dr. Carolyn Whitzman, Bank of Montreal Visiting Scholar at the University of Ottawa. Dr. Whitzman’s presentation, “Improving Partnerships to Scale Capacity for Non-Profit Housing”, explored how four key cities experiencing affordable housing shortages work with non-profit housing corporations and co-operatives in order to ease their respective cities’ housing stresses.
Whitzman alluded to the aptly named “Stonehenge moments” in housing (referring to the moments in which the sun aligns with the iconic stone structure). These Stonehenge moments in housing are those rare moments when all levels of government align on housing policy. During these rare “Stonehenge moments”, affordable housing leaders must be prepared with plans and data to ensure that housing gets built.
Whitzman discussed ways to navigate the numerous levels of governments and often conflicting planning policies by highlighting the differences in government structure and planning bureaucracies in the four key cities of Toronto, Vancouver, Portland, and Melbourne.
Portland, Oregon, in particular, has seen a boom in purpose-built rental housing development in response to their affordable housing shortage. Citing Portland’s successes, Whitzman showed how purpose-built rental development can lower a city’s GINI coefficient (level of wealth inequality) and protect the housing market from foreign buyers that might leave investment homes vacant.
Whitzman further discussed how innovative approaches to housing can reduce homelessness in housing-squeezed cities. Melbourne, Australia, and Vancouver, BC, have explored the use of modular housing constructed on vacant, government owned land to serve as a “rapid response to homelessness.”
Whitzman concluded her presentation by summing up her five ingredients for affordable housing success:
- Developing targets for all housing to meet all people’s needs;
- Free government land;
- Non-profits with a strong asset base and long-term plans;
- Low-cost financing opportunities to address start-up costs; and
- Partnerships with affordable housing stakeholders.