Using the Canadian Rental Housing Index to inform community-based planning

The Canadian Rental Housing Index has contributed to a diverse range of planning, policy, and advocacy materials. These materials are all being used to shape affordable housing policy in different ways so that the needs of renters are being taken into account.

While there are many examples of where the Index is being used, one excellent example of its impact is the Community Developer’s Toolkit by an organization called New Commons Development. The organization is a non-profit real estate development company that works with the community housing sector to develop new affordable housing assets. Recognizing the need for the non-profit sector to play a greater role in developing a range of affordable housing options for low- and middle-income groups, the Toolkit provides critical information for affordable housing stakeholders to consider when acquiring, redeveloping, and developing affordable housing sites. The Toolkit is informed by the principle that affordable housing should be a community-based asset, and remain affordable in perpetuity.

The free online Toolkit walks users through the steps needed to consider when undertaking an affordable housing project, which include using CRHI data to inform a need and demand study, understanding the categories of need in a community, and developing the financial planning to execute the project. The Toolkit is a success because it will be used to inform the development and preservation of community-based assets in urban land markets where affordable housing is increasingly difficult to locate. Resources such as this guide are important because they are focused specifically on the community housing sector and provide important information for non-technical audiences to move projects forward.

This informs a larger philosophical question about the role of the non-profit sector in affordable housing provision. Historically, non-profit housing has been seen as only an option for low-income income households who cannot and do not have their needs met by the private market. There is a shifting understanding that the non-profit sector can be involved in providing housing for middle-income groups as well. By removing the profit motive from housing, we can treat it as a community asset that will remain affordable in perpetuity. This is a shift in thinking from seeing housing as a private investment for individual gain. Rather the toolkit positions the non-profit housing sector as a solution to the housing crisis, and in using Index data, it directly informs the impact BCNPHA and community housing sector would like to see.

Visit the Canadian Rental Housing Index here.