HART for Government

Information and guidance on the HART project specifically for planners, city staff and government officials.

Free, reliable, and equity-focused housing needs assessments

Using HART as a foundation for your work

Housing needs assessments (HNAs) are fundamental for planning in any community, and are legally required in some provinces. Some communities don’t have the resources to complete HNAs on their own, and often pay for expensive consultants to do this work for them. Other communities may have the resources but employ different methods than their neighboring communities. Some simply don’t have access to the right data to answer their concerns.

Our Housing Needs Assessment Tool is a free, evidence-based, replicable, and equity-focused way to visualize the types of homes your community needs. Our tool is able to show overall housing need, but also able to provide valuable data about housing need by income (the first time this has been done with Census data), household size, and priority populations. We also identify existing housing deficit and projected community growth to look at future need for every community in Canada.

Ways to build upon our methods

Our tool is based on the Census, so it is renewed with fresh data every five years. You may have access to more regular population data, or more fulsome data, to help you set targets to address homelessness and housing need. The census has data gaps. Homeless people without shelter or in emergency shelters, individuals living in congregate housing (such as rooming houses and long-term care facilities), and students are not counted in Core Housing Need. Suppressed demand (households moving to another region because of affordability concerns) is also not directly calculated. Issues like accessibility, location, and security of tenure, essential to adequate housing, are not part of Core Housing Need; the HART project is working with Statistics Canada on addressing these gaps. Your government should also be measuring housing completions, and costs of new and existing ownership and rental housing by income category to measure progress on housing targets.

Our tool has a simple interface that generates five key metrics for every community, and we also have a public dataverse featuring all of our disaggregated data, where you can ask your own questions of the data based on your community’s needs, including tenure. If you do not have a data expert on your team, we also offer free eLearning to use the dataverse, Beyond 20/20, and our whole suite of tools more in-depth.

Identify government-owned land for non-profit and affordable housing development

While many communities already consider their land holdings as potential sites for non-profit housing, the Land Assessment Tool offers a more comprehensive, solutions-oriented map that accounts for:

  • Land owned by other levels of government
  • ‘Lazy’ land – plots which may be occupied by low-rise services like post offices or libraries and can have housing build on top
  • Proximity to amenities that would be relevant to residents

We use a proximity measures index, which was created by Statistics Canada and the CMHC, to identify key amenities that should be nearby any housing. The amenities are as follows:

  • Childcare
  • Primary & secondary schools
  • Healthcare
  • Pharmacies
  • Libraries
  • Community centres
  • Parks
  • Grocery stores
  • Public transit

Using these metrics, the Land Assessment Tool provides communities with a ranked list of plots that are best suited for housing development. At present, it is difficult to know who owns what land, including non-profit landowners such as churches who may have a social mission for more non-profit and affordable housing. We have discussed with the CMHC the advantages of publicly owned assessment and transparent systems, like in BC, over privately-owned systems that do not make ownership data available.

Create a best-practice acquisitions strategy for your community

Communities across Canada are recognizing and implementing strategies to preserve affordable housing stock as a part of a comprehensive housing strategy. However, the federal government, which supported housing and land acquisitions in the 1970s and 1980s, has not yet provided adequate support to other levels of government for this essential mechanism.

Our Property Acquisitions Tool consists of a strategy database and map with an outline of acquisitions practices in Canada, the United States, and globally to assist communities in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches. Furthermore, we have produced policy how-to guides for communities of all sizes to help you select a strategy that is best suited to your unique community’s needs and resources (these are coming soon!).

How does this all translate to policy?

Understanding the needs and available resources in your community is the first step to addressing it. What are the best policies you can enact to move the needle on housing? We’ve put together policy implications for the HART Tools, describing the concrete ways different communities can implement policy that will support housing affordability.


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