Building Housing Common Ground
After releasing our "Rethinking Canadian Housing Policy" report, we convened a diverse mix of housing sector leaders to see what kind of principles we might come up with, together. The result: a newly-refined set of 10 principles for tackling the affordability crisis.

When it comes to the CodeRed housing crisis, what can homebuilders, developers, non-profit housing providers, mayors, councillors and senior planners, landlords and people living through the housing squeeze all agree on?

To find out, we convened 48 housing sector leaders from Metro Vancouver to Victoria and Toronto see if we could identify some high-level common ground. 

The surprise: we agree on a lot! 

Our Code Red: Building Housing Common Ground report showcases ten high-level, common ground principles for tackling the affordability crisis.



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.

[1] Refer to our report “Code Red: Rethinking Canadian Housing Policy” for statistics and analysis.

Media coverage

  • Dr. Paul Kershaw discusses the common ground on the Simi Sara Show:

Listen here!

  • Session participants Beau Jarvis (Senior Vice President of Development at Wesgroup Properties) and Thom Armstrong (Executive Director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C.) talk to CBC Early Edition about the importance of working together (scan to 1:41:10 in the player). 

Listen here!


This common ground event wouldn't have been possible without the generous support of:


Eric Swanson
Eric is the Executive Director of Generation Squeeze.
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