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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Freedom to Build: Frontier Centre looks at Canada's homeless problem

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released a backgrounder on Canada's homeless population. It examines the role of regulation in reducing the supply of low-cost housing. “Freedom to Build,” written by researcher Fergus Hodgson, notes that:

• Approximately half of homeless individuals are employed, and even more are willing to work.
• Canada's cost of housing has greatly outpaced wage growth, so minimum wage and low- paying jobs are no longer sufficient to cover accommodation in Canada's major cities.
• Construction resources have been channelled away from low-cost housing by building codes, green belts, zoning ordinances, approval and consultation delays, and mandatory professional licensing.
• Federal public housing assets are now more than a third of a trillion dollars, more than double what they were three years ago. Yet, the waiting list has grown even more rapidly and remains years long.
• Numerous government programs and community initiatives have sought to address homelessness, but they have overlooked the restrained housing market, so they have proved ineffectual.

The study notes that the policy responses to affordable housing, while numerous, have not addressed the primary cause: the restrained supply of private housing, which for the last two decades has been a significant reason the homeless proportion of the population has grown so rapidly.

“Estimates vary on homelessness but that anyone is homeless in Canada is tragic” writes the study's author, Fergus Hodgson. “Rather than address the symptom, homelessness, let us focus on the cause, a lack of housing, and do away with the numerous, cumbersome, short-sighted and destructive impediments to housing access,” continued Hodgson.

You can find the “Freedom to Build” report here.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on January 6, 2010 | Permalink


I see a lot of side streets in cities where houses, not homes, can be built to shelter the homeless. All that needs to happen is to eliminate cars and trucks on these streets, then build the houses. Sewers are already present for the new residents. Water can easily be piped in and connection to electricity should be easy. Forget the zoning! This solution is the way to go. If owners of the existing homes on the street get upset, so what.

Posted by: Agha Ali Arkhan | 2010-01-06 4:53:33 PM

If owners of the existing homes on the street get upset, so what.

Posted by: Agha Ali Arkhan | 2010-01-06 4:53:33 PM

Agha Ali Arkhan, your suggestion would become part of the problem. Matthew is right that it is restrained supply of private housing, but your suggestion would decrease new private investment. The reason is that fewer people would invest in land with expropriation uncertainty.

Posted by: TM | 2010-01-06 5:22:19 PM

This is something I've been saying for years, and while I hate sounding like a broken record, it is more often than not, conservative politicians who like to erect severe limits on city growth.

Case-and-point: John Tory running for mayor of Toronto promised to put in zoning limits to slow the pace of development and quote "stop the manhattenization of Toronto"

Communist Miller on the other hand, has supported far less restrictive zoning, which has led to a proliferation of residential construction in Toronto.

In this particular case, it's a classic example of conservatives not liking urbanization, and leftists preferring urbanizations. So conservatives tend to appeal to the NIMBY voter-block.

I know this isn't the whole story, but I think it's a worth-while observation.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-01-06 5:30:55 PM

There is no reason anyone should be homeless in Canada unless they want to be. But in our present system, we only pay lip service to the problem. How many people could be looked after just on the ongoing cost of war, never mind the rest of governments waste. This problem is going to get much worse in the coming years as automation, moving jobs to other countries, and the state of the economy progresses. There are simply not going to be enough decent paying jobs to go around, not that there is now. This is why there has been an increase in self employment, small businesses and under the table work. Its coming, and is largely ignored by politicians. This system will collapse under its own weight. Conservative, Liberal, whatever, its all the same, and they all generally support the present system. All I can do is hope I'm in the ground before the collapse, because if it is not done right, its going to get ugly. I pity the kids.
Well off to smoke a fattie and listen to my favorite REM tune.....Its the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine......

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-01-06 7:56:18 PM

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