Report: How Non-Market Housing Contributes To Economic Growth

person carrying house running across a field
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A lack of community housing means the housing crisis is more painful than it needs to be.

If you accept that non-profit and co-operative housing are a drag on your country’s economy, the following report is here to make you think again. It tackles the question: does community housing1 contribute to the economy? The authors’ analysis uses widely accepted research methods and publicly available data.

The results indicate that Canada’s economy would benefit significantly if a substantial number of community housing units are added to the to the existing stock between now and 2030, It is not enough to simply add more housing. The calculated benefits are realized only when community housing units are added.

The report lays out the methodology the authors used and explains why specific analytical tools were used. Rather than go into details of the report here, the remainder of this post is about who would find it useful:

    • Housing Advocates. Advocates are accustomed to calling for more community housing2.
    • Researchers. Those exploring the economic benefits of community housing focus on cost savings in other parts of the public sector (e.g. homelessness services, health care, and child welfare). This report provides evidence that adding to the supply of community housing makes a significant contribution to economic productivity.
    • Community Housing Providers. Non-profit and co-operative housing providers have argued for years that economists undervalue the economic contribution of social housing. Now there is evidence to support the claim. It helps that the linked report is written by an accounting and consulting firm with an international reputation.
    • Indigenous People. Compared with Canadian residents as a whole, Indigenous people experience very high levels of housing precarity and homelessness. The report calls for a specific stream of funding to be dedicated toward adding community housing for Indigenous people living on and off reserve.
    • Public Decision Makers. Productivity in the Canadian economy is lagging behind the United States and other OECD countries. Adding more social housing contributes more to productivity than adding private market housing.
    • Canadian Workers. Adding steadily to the supply of social housing offers the prospect of regular employment.
    • Canadian Residents Who Cannot Afford Market Rents. Adding more social housing stock would increase supply of units with low rents. The private market will not add housing for people who cannot pay market rents.

This report is clearly intended for a Canadian audience. Readers in other jurisdictions may wish to check out the methodology and the literature review, which includes international sources.

The report starts with an executive summary, to help gauge whether the report merits a longer read. Both are posted by the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association: Economic Study: The Impact of Community Housing on Productivity


  1. In this report, community housing refers to all forms of housing that rent outside the private market. Examples include non-profit, co-operative and public housing, where rents are based on tenant’s incomes.
  2. See for example this recent appeal by forty homeless charities in Scotland, which is reported in the Daily Record: Poverty and homeless groups sign joint demand for new social housing revolution