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This National Housing Week, let’s focus on a healthy ecosystem

A healthy housing market is not unlike a natural ecosystem, each component working together to offer safe, stable housing for all.

A mid-rise apartment building behind a home in Montreal/iStock.

Published on November 13, 2017

By: Michelle German

We already see the stress of an unhealthy housing system in our lives and in our cities. We're seeing increased rental unaffordability, a lack of subsidized housing, and more and more sprawl moving outwards from our cities.

By 2031, more than 4.1 million people are expected to call the Greater Golden Horseshoe home. That’s an increase of 23 per cent over 2011. Finding the right size of housing in the right location, at the right price for these people is key to establishing a healthy system that will flourish with population growth, not crumble.

We have the ability to increase the quality of life for us and this new population by decreasing commute times, and increasing time with family and friends, all translating to better economic activity, opportunities and social wellbeing.

But we need to focus on making sure we build a healthy housing ecosystem.

An ecosystem is a community of organisms that interact as a system along with the nonliving components of their environment, like air and dirt.

A healthy housing system works the same way. Temporary emergency shelters interact and work with rental housing, subsidized housing and market home ownership to form a stable and secure system for all Canadians.

Not unlike a natural ecosystem, when we neglect one type of housing option, the system suffers. Look at the issues presented in our report Getting to 8,000: Building a Healthier Rental Market for the Toronto Area: Our rental system is increasingly faced with problems regarding affordability due to, in part, longstanding instability in the housing market as a whole. 

All housing options must be provided where it is needed, close to employment, schools and other essential services. Locations and connections to community ties such as friends, family and support networks will help us advance the vision of building complete communities. 

Recognizing housing as an important component of complete communities, we have been working with partners through our Housing Action Lab over the past four years to produce research, educational materials and public policy solutions that support housing affordability.  Together with our partners, we are marking National Housing Week (November 20 – 24th) as an important moment for Canadians to come together and acknowledge that safe, affordable housing is an integral part of complete communities.

In Toronto, we have curated a flurry of activities throughout the week to raise the collective profile of housing issues and catalyze action toward innovative change. The more diversity of voices in the housing conversation, the better. Come out and take part in one of our public events or follow along online through #HousingWeek2017. 

Michelle German is the senior manager of policy and partnerships at Evergreen.