CODE RED: Building Housing Common Ground

I thought this was a pretty good summary and recommendations based on my rudimentary knowledge of things. Be sure to read some of the commentary from the participants at the bottom. Click here to read the full report or an excerpt below.




A Message from the Session Hosts

When Generation Squeeze launched the Code Red housing affordability campaign in May, 2016 we didn’t want to end up being just another lone voice in what is often a disjointed, reactive housing debate.

Certainly, we have our own specific policy ideas and we’ll continue to push those. However, what’s more important to us is revealing the common ground principles that tie diverse interests together and finding a way to reform our housing system from there.

Rather than settling for the lowest common denominator, we want to establish the highest principled common ground.

The context for our day-long session was the continuing affordability crisis affecting many of our communities.

And while there are no sharp lines here, we continue to stress that younger Canadians (broadly defined as those in their 20s, 30s and 40s) are being hit particularly hard.

This session was held in B.C., and one of the province’s most iconic species – salmon – provides an excellent metaphor for the journey of young people through today’s housing market.

As has always been the case, young people should need to work hard and make sacrifices in order to build homes for themselves and their children – much like salmon must swim upstream, against the current, overcome obstacles (waterfalls) and be on alert for all manner of risks (bears).

But the problem today is that it’s harder to swim against the current when rivers are polluted by jobs that pay thousands less (after adjusting for inflation). The waterfalls are 2 or 3 times taller because housing prices have increased dramatically. There are many more bears fattening their savings on the hard work of those trying to swim upstream. And for some, especially in Metro Vancouver or the Greater Toronto Area, the route has been entirely dammed off.1

Just as our society strives to restore salmon habitat and ease their passage upstream through interventions like salmon ladders, we need to take bold steps to ease the passage of today’s younger Canadians into secure, stable homes (as renters or owners).

The good news, as exemplified by the common ground principles outlined in this report, is that there is broad appetite for bold action, and a great deal of agreement about where we need to go.

The challenge for us is building the necessary political will to enshrine some or all of these principles at all three levels of government.

In so doing, we’ll inevitably bump against entrenched interests: including contradictions within ourselves, our own families and personal networks, and the broader community.

It’s our job to face these tensions head on, to get them out in the open, and face them not with hostility or polarizing actions but with evidence, understanding and an unrelenting focus on the opportunity for positive change.

For our part, we’re committed to that process, and look forward to working with session participants and others to ensure more Canadians are able to make their way upstream.

Finally, a big thank you to our sponsors and partners (see rear cover) without whom this inspiring day would not have been possible. Sincerely,

Eric Swanson Executive Director, Generation Squeeze

Paul Kershaw Founder, Generation Squeeze


On Oct 25th 2016, a group of housing sector leaders gathered in Vancouver to take a big picture approach to the affordability crisis affecting many of our communities. We wanted to see if a diverse array of stakeholders could identify common ground, starting with first principles. Along the way we tackled some tough questions / elephants in the room. For example, is affordability at odds with home equity expectations? In the room were:

• Developers • Home Builders • Academics & Think Tanks • Mayors, Councilors & Senior Planners and Staff • Financial Institutions • Realtors • Labour • Non-Profit Housing Providers & Service Organizations • Grassroots Organizations • Landlords & Property Managers • And people living through the housing squeeze *Full list of participants is included on pp. X

Addressing the Crisis

10 Common Ground Principles

The following 10 principles represent areas of alignment achieved by session participants.

Like any synthesis, it is an imperfect reflection of the totality of the discussion. However, in an effort to convey the common ground as accurately as possible we’ve included keywords and verbatim text (“raw material”) from the summary tiles produced by participants.

Policy implications are included for four of the principles. This reflects a greater depth of discussion related to those principles during the session, rather than any judgment on their relative importance. The principles are ordered in such a way as to promote readability and flow.

  1. Support Bold Action
  2. Personal Responsibility to Adapt
  3. Collective Responsibility to Adapt
  4. Level the Playing Field between Renters and Owners
  5. Innovate with New Tenure & Equity Models
  6. Channel Private Investment to Public Benefit
  7. Encourage Density, Diversity and Efficiency
  8. Revise Tax Policy
  9. Go Beyond Housing Policy
  10. Mobilize Younger Generations

Participants and Commentary

A complete list of session participants follows. All participants were given the opportunity to provide commentary on the session itself and this report. For those who provided it, we include this commentary below.


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