SCARP's Housing Research Collaborative awarded $1.86 million in federal housing challenge


The Housing Research Collaborative (HRC), a community of housing experts established at the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) in 2017, has been awarded $1.86 million in the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's Housing Supply Challenge.

The funds will be used to support the national roll-out of a set of innovative, data-based housing assessment tools developed by the HRC. The tools will enable communities to not only accurately measure how much affordable housing they need, but also identify the best land and buildings that can be used to meet those needs.

"Until now, planners haven't been able to assess housing requirements in a simple, systematic way," says Dr. Penny Gurstein, professor emeritus at SCARP and the founder and head of the HRC. "Our goal is to offer, for the first time, a standardized, equity-focused toolkit that governments across the country can use to remove the barriers to affordable housing in their jurisdictions."

In the project's first stage, led by Dr. Gurstein, the HRC's tools — collectively named the Housing Assessment Resource Tools (HART) — were tested in Kelowna. They were successfully used to determine how many homes the city needs, as well as the most suitable sizes, costs and locations of those homes, in order to address housing unaffordability. The results reflected how quickly the population was growing, how much affordable housing was being lost and the housing deficit in different income categories.  

Now, in the second stage of the project — led by UBC assistant law professor Dr. Alexandra Flynn and co-led by Dr. Gurstein — the HART team is working with 15 governments to roll out their methods across Canada, including the Yukon Territory and Beaverhouse First Nation. They are also developing a national database on housing needs and a HART training course for planners and other professionals, as well as investigating the policy implications of their findings.

"Our vision is to enable any community to easily access data about housing, creating a common language nationally to address affordable housing," says the HART team. "This can lead to better targets, faster home construction and more equitable outcomes."

In 2018, more than one in ten households in Canada were in housing need, or "living in an unsuitable, inadequate or unaffordable dwelling, and not able to afford alternative housing in their community." The Housing Supply Challenge will invest $300 million over five years to advance the Government of Canada's 10-year, $55 billion National Housing Strategy, which aims, among other things, to "lift 530,000 families out of housing need" and reduce chronic homelessness by 50 per cent.

In addition to Dr. Gurstein and Dr. Flynn, the HART team includes SCARP assistant professors Dr. Julia Harten and Dr. James Connolly, HRC research coordinator Craig E. Jones, UBC computer science professor Dr. Raymond Ng, University of Waterloo assistant planning professor Dr. Martine August and University of Ottawa adjunct geography professor Dr. Carolyn Whitzman.

For more information about the second stage of the HART project, please see the announcement on the website of UBC's Peter A. Allard School of Law.

Photo by Veronica Dudarev on Unsplash

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