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Financing social housing in Canada

by Nick Van Dyk
Housing Policy Debate ()

Abstract

This article examines the mechanisms used since the 1970s to finance\nsocial housing in Canada. It reveals that direct government assistance\nhas proven to be the most cost‐effective mechanism. Experimentation\nwith alternative mortgage instruments such as the graduated‐payment\nmortgage and the index‐linked mortgage has also been central to the\nattempt to minimize subsidy and financing costs. The article concludes\nthat the possibility of further enhancements in social housing finance\nis limited at best. The problem remains the gap between the cost\nof developing new social housing and the revenues generated from\nrents. Various partnership approaches have been tried, but none has\nbeen successful in providing housing at low rent levels. Some potential\ndoes exist, however, to refinance older social housing developments\nand draw equity out of them. This may be the only source of new funding\navailable because federal assistance to new social housing developments\nhas been frozen.

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