New Research on the U.S. Housing Choice Voucher Program Offers Lessons for Canada

Friday, November 22, 2019 – Today, on National Housing Day, Social Planning Toronto releases its new report, “Learning from Our Neighbours to the South: The U.S. Housing Choice Voucher Program - Evidence and Lessons for Canada.” 

This in-depth review of the Housing Choice Voucher Program provides a base of evidence to guide the development of the Canada Housing Benefit, a key component of Canada’s National Housing Strategy. The report offers lessons from the U.S. experience, identifies principles and practices that best support positive outcomes for tenants, and articulates the limitations of portable housing benefits for addressing housing needs. 

“With proper design and implementation, housing benefit programs have the potential to serve as an important stopgap in a context of high and escalating rents and inadequate and stagnant incomes,” said Social Planning Toronto executive director Devika Shah. “However, the research makes clear that they are in no way a panacea for resolving the affordable housing crisis and should not be used to replace existing public housing.” 

The development of the Canada Housing Benefit should be informed by a strong base of empirical evidence. With this goal in mind, Social Planning Toronto’s new report offers lessons from the U.S. experience to inform policy and program decision-making for Canada.

Seven Key Learnings

  1. Ensure clear, consistent, and enforceable standards.
  2. Tailor program to meet local needs.
  3. Provide permanent benefits to ensure long-term success.
  4. Ensure that housing benefits are not used to replace existing public housing.
  5. Recognize that housing benefits alone are not sufficient to ensure access to housing. 
  6. Invest in the development, rehabilitation, and repair of social housing and tenant services.
  7. Act on discrimination in rental housing and support a broad approach to delivering on the right to housing. 

Canada Housing Benefit 101

  • Key component of the National Housing Strategy
  • $4 billion investment over eight years
  • To be co-developed and cost-shared with provinces and territories
  • Portable housing benefit, to provide direct support of up to $2,500 per year to eligible households 
  • Aimed at individuals and families in housing need, potentially including those in social housing, on waiting lists and in private rental housing
  • To assist 300,000 households over an eight-year period
  • Planned to launch in April 2020

Read the Briefing Note here.


Media Contact:

Isaac Thornley

Acting Communications Co-ordinator, Social Planning Toronto

[email protected]

416 351 0095 ext. 227

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