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Investing in home

Understanding funding options for affordable housing

By Colin Heffernan

Yaffle.ca is Memorial’s online connecting tool. One of its most significant jobs is to provide a way for people from outside Memorial to ask for research help. With hundreds of community-suggested opportunities to choose from, your next project is just a click away. Here’s one:

The opportunity

Maria Callahan’s work with the City of St. John’s brings her to the forefront of the affordable housing crunch in the community. In her position as affordable housing and development facilitator, Ms. Callahan focuses on opening up affordable housing opportunities for those who need it most. Her work affects many groups across the city, particularly seniors.

“City council realizes that there is an appetite for collaboration in tackling the housing issues that exist here in St. John’s,” said Ms. Callahan. “There are many not-for-profit organizations that engage the city to advocate for better housing options for those in need. It’s impossible to ignore that there is a shortage of affordable housing for seniors, as well as for a number of other demographic groups.”

The statistics around seniors’ housing in St. John’s paint a concerning picture. According to the City of St. John’s Seniors Housing Research Project, by 2035, 28 per cent of the city’s population will be more than 60 years old. The 60-plus demographic has a diverse range of incomes and needs. Meeting the housing needs of seniors in St. John’s will be a significant challenge, considering 75 per cent of available residential land is zoned for single family homes. Tackling housing issues for seniors will require affordable, innovative solutions.

“It’s impossible to ignore that there is a shortage of affordable housing for seniors, as well as for a number of other demographic groups.” –Maria Callahan

Ms. Callahan points to social impact bonds as an avenue for increasing the availability of suitable housing for seniors. Social impact bonds allow the public sector to attract investment from private sources to pay for projects that can have a positive impact on social indicators such as obesity, literacy, employment and poverty. If a project achieves its stated, quantifiable goal, investors are provided returns through costs savings achieved by the success of the initiative.

The Affordable Housing Business Plan for the City of St. John’s spells out a preference for collaborative solutions between the city, the public, not-for-profits and private partners. The report states that partnerships are necessary to the success of the plan; collaborative investment in housing solutions is the best way to achieve the full potential of the economic, social and environmental dividends.

The city is keenly interested in the potential of social impacts bonds as a solution to the challenges currently faced by many people in the city as they seek to secure affordable, suitable housing for those who need it the most.

The project

More specifically, the City of St. John’s is looking for interested researchers at Memorial to collaborate on a feasibility study that looks at the usage of social impact bonds as a tool for developing affordable housing options for seniors.

Interested in learning more about this project? The Harris Centre’s knowledge mobilization co-ordinator would be happy to tell you more. Contact Colin Heffernan at (709) 864-6115 or via email.

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