Understand what kinds of housing your community needs

Broken down in clear categories

Our Housing Needs Assessment (HNA) Tool allows you to see the sizes, types and costs of housing that are needed in your community. We use Census data from Statistics Canada, which means that our data is the most reliable disaggregated data (data that is separated into distinct parts for the purposes of identifying trends) for large and small communities currently available. It also means that our data is updated every five years, according to the timing of the census. Our HNA tool is currently the only free public tool that allows users to identify housing need in every community broken down by income categories, household size, and priority populations as identified by the CMHC.

Thinking about housing needs according to incomes and household sizes

Calculating housing need by income is the most effective way to build communities, because you can determine what kind of housing costs are required to achieve in order to meet need. In 2016, over 90% of households in core housing need were paying more than 30% of their pre-tax income towards housing – one of three thresholds that CMHC has set for inadequate housing.

For example, if your community is in need of 3,000 units that cost under $600 per month, then 5,000 luxury condos will not meet the needs that currently exist.

Understand what kind of land your community holds

Once you know how much housing your community needs, one way to address this need is by building more housing. One of the most expensive components in housing construction is the high cost of land, which ranges anywhere from 30-80% of building costs. Using our Land Assessment Tool, you can discover government-owned land that could be used for housing development. This land may be vacant, or what we call ‘lazy land’, where there may be a small building like a post office or library that could have housing developed on top.

In addition to identifying the land, our tool also scores and ranks land according to how close it is to essential amenities. The amenities include:

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

Using these metrics, the Land Assessment Tool provides a ranked list of parcels that are best suited for housing development. It can also be used to identify areas in your community that may be missing key amenities. For example, if a parcel in one neighbourhood ranks poorly for proximity to a grocery store, then there may be an opportunity to build housing on top of a grocery store on that land.

Understand the ways your community can preserve affordability

In addition to building more housing on available land, housing need can be met through the preservation of existing affordability. In Canada, research has shown that for every affordable housing unit built, we lose up to 15 affordable units through cost increases and redevelopment. It is nearly impossible to build the amount of affordable housing we need, without first preventing the loss of affordability currently existing in the market. Governments can take the initiative by acquiring affordable housing directly, or supporting non-profit housing providers to acquire buildings. Once under public or non-profit ownership, housing is far more likely to stay affordable.

What is the best strategy for my community to acquire existing affordable housing?

Our Property Acquisitions Tool consists of a strategy database with an outline of acquisitions practices in Canada, the United States, and around the world to help communities understand the strengths and weaknesses of different acquisitions strategies. Furthermore, we have also produced policy guides for communities of all sizes to evaluate their resources, needs, and select a strategy that is best suited to their unique situation.

How does this all translate to policy?

Understanding the needs and available resources in your community is the first step to addressing it. How can your elected officials put resources to best use? We’ve put together policy implications for the HART Tools, describing the concrete ways different communities can implement policy that will support housing affordability.

Learn how to use our tools yourself

View the content below to learn how to use the Land Assessment and Property Acquisition Tools for yourself.


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