Housing Analysis — Methodology
Here’s how Gen Squeeze will assess and score federal parties’ 2019 platforms on the issue of housing affordability

Table of Contents

Introduction


This election, Generation Squeeze is undertaking a rigorous analysis of federal party platforms on our four key issues of housing affordability, climate change, family affordability, and generational fairness in public finance.

Our mission: to help voters better understand how far each party's platform is along the journey to actually solving these big problems facing young people today.

We'll be straight with you, this kind of analysis is really tough. The timelines are tight, the issues are complex, our own understanding is inevitably imperfect, the parties don't always make it easy to figure out where they stand or what they mean, they are making announcements every day that risk making our analyses outdated, and it's tricky to distill a wide range of promises into some sense of the overall strength of parties' plans... but not impossible.

To that end, we've done our best to craft a rigorous, meaningful and non-partisan approach. Our evidence-informed policy positions on these issues should come through loud and clear, but we don't make recommendations about who to vote for, because (a) you may or may not agree with our positions or analysis; (b) we don't presume to tell you what you should care most about; and (c) we ultimately know that younger Canadians build additional power to influence politics the more we vote, regardless of who we vote for. We'll say it again: 

Both the spirit and substance of our analysis is neutral/non-partisan in that no part of it is intended to portray any individual party or candidate in inherently favourable or unfavourable ways or to direct people to vote for or against any specific parties or candidates. 

Our work simply depicts how party positions align with criteria selected in light of academic evidence about housing, family policy, climate change and intergenerational justice in public finance. Our findings may reveal that some parties align more, or less, with the evidence. Pointing this out doesn't reveal partisanship. It reveals our commitment to report on alignment with evidence. 

We have a genuine desire for ALL parties to improve the scores they receive according to our evidence-based evaluation system. We welcome parties to refine their promises during the campaign, and we will revise our evaluations accordingly. Success for Gen Squeeze is that all parties have equally strong platforms to solve the big problems facing younger generations so that voters ultimately choose between parties based on other criteria.

We are also open to critique of our platform analyses.  We welcome parties to contact Gen Squeeze directly to draw our attention to parts of their platforms that they believe are not evaluated properly according to the criteria we articulate, and we will adapt our evaluations accordingly as required by the evidence.

Basic Approach


Instead of simply listing party promises, our assessment attempts to make meaning of those promises, individually and in aggregate, by:

  • Publishing comprehensive, evidence-based frameworks that we believe encompass the commitments and categories of actions required to solve the big problems facing young Canadians, beginning with a clearly stated goal for each of our four key issues.

  • Translating each framework into a set of key criteria.

  • Assessing the degree to which each major party’s platform addresses the key criteria. The resulting analysis includes:

    • Detailed written commentary - to help explain what we perceive to be the strengths and weaknesses of each stated policy, capturing as much nuance as time and capacity allows.

    • Summary tables and scores - recognizing that while detailed commentary is the best method to capture nuance, there is a need to distill our conclusions as much as possible if we hope to increase voter literacy among a general audience who may not have hours to read and digest our detailed commentary.

For this election period, we will be focusing our analysis on the four major parties who began the race with at least one MP who was elected as a representative of that party, and who are running a national slate of candidates: which includes the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Party, and the New Democratic Party. 

Housing Policy Framework


The following housing affordability policy framework aligns with that published by the Housing Research Collaborative, a collaboration of academics and community stakeholders (including Gen Squeeze) hosted at the University of British Columbia.  See our collaborative report "Housing Policy Framework and Policy Options for the 2019 Federal Election." Our housing framework also aligns with and draws on the findings of Gen Squeeze's "Building Housing Common Ground" session and report, which summarizes areas of common ground identified by a range of stakeholders from across the housing system. Read more about our framework design here. 

Gen Squeeze Housing Framework:


Key Criteria

We then translate our housing policy framework into 9 key criteria, and assign parties up to one point for their platform's response to each, as outlined in the following table. 

THE CRITERIA WE ARE LOOKING FOR IN PARTIES' HOUSING PLATFORMS

AVAILABLE POINTS

   
CLEAR GOALS AND PRINCIPLES  

Commits to adopt the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation goal that “By 2030, everyone in Canada has a home that they can afford and that meets their needs," or a similarly clear and ambitious goal.
1
Demonstrates a commitment to the principle of “Homes First”, which at its core means treating housing and residential land simply as a place to call home, not a way to get rich. The bottom line being that we cannot make housing more affordable while at the same time encouraging home values to increase (faster than local earnings). Policymakers need to choose.   1
Commits to a Phase II of the National Housing Strategy which means expanding the scope of the current National Housing Strategy to (a) serve all Canadians struggling to find a good home, including all ~1.7 million households currently in core housing need (the current NHS aims to serve ~500,000 households), in part by (b) addressing forces that shape the regular housing market upon which most Canadians rely (the current NHS largely focuses on the non-profit/community housing market). 1
 

 

SCALE UP THE NON-PROFIT MARKET

 

Action to strengthen the current National Housing Strategy, including by shoring up the existing stock of community housing, expanding the stock of community housing, and creating special strategies to serve the most vulnerable. 

1

 

 

ADJUST THE DIALS OF THE REGULAR MARKET

 

Action to dial up the right kind of supply in ways that combat sprawl and encourage density and mixed-use in urban land already reserved for residences (protecting land required for industry, farming and green-space), with an emphasis on protecting/stabilizing existing affordable supply, adding so-called "missing middle" housing, family-sized units and purpose-built rental, and incorporating low/zero-emission goals into supply-side housing policy.

1

Action to dial down harmful demand, including from (a) money launderers, speculators, foreign buyers, tax cheats, house flippers, short term rental operators, and also (b) from more 'mundane' but pervasive sources of domestic investment demand, including everyday Canadians who problematically turn to housing and land to earn a profit — via equity gains, secondary unit rental income or both — instead of putting that capital into productive investments like stocks and bonds, or alternatively into the construction of secure, "purpose built rental" and (c) from Canadians who, lured by loose mortgage regulations, borrow and bid more than they can realistically afford. 

1

Action to address wealth inequalities created by housing, between renters and owners, and between older and younger demographics, for example by re-balancing the way we tax income vs. housing wealth (whether at the time of purchase, the time of sale, or annually through the duration of ownership).

1

Action to de-risk the market against a decline in prices, acknowledging that unless Canadians' earnings dramatically increase (unlikely), the only way to close the affordability gap is to carefully rein in housing and land costs for first-time and other homebuyers - and indirectly for renters - while simultaneously mitigating the risks such a decline creates for highly leveraged households and the Canadian economy.

1

Action to improve housing data, including with a national beneficial ownership registry, additional information on global capital flows into Canadian residential real estate, and the current extent of non-resident and investor ownership of local housing.

1

   
TOTAL  9


After summing each party's score, we will then take that score, divide it by the total number of points available, and multiply that number by 10 to allow for easier side-by-side visualizations of parties' scores across our four key issues (each of which has a different number of key criteria).


Scoring Methodology 


For each key criteria
, parties will receive a score that ranges from +1.0 to -1.0, assessed as follows:

Assessment Points
No discernible commitments 0
Commitments are somewhat capable of achieving the goal 0.5
Commitments are capable of achieving the goal 1.0
Commitments somewhat undermine progress towards the goal -0.5
Commitments undermine progress towards the goal -1.0


This five-point method was chosen because (a) it’s relatively simple, (b) it's capable of distinguishing between narrow/shallow responses and comprehensive responses to each criteria, especially the criteria that relate to broad policy categories, and (c) it allows us to subtract points where the evidence suggests a particular policy or group of policies put forward by a party is likely to exacerbate the problem/take us further away from the goal.

The limitations of this method include:

  • It leans towards awarding comprehensiveness over degree of depth; e.g. (a) the five point scale doesn't allow much splitting of hairs between similar promises expressed with different levels of implementation detail, and (b) a platform that "doubles-down" on action on any given criteria (i.e. goes beyond what would be required to earn a full point) won't be awarded extra points for that extra effort, though this would be acknowledged in the detailed commentary

  • The awarding of points inevitably involves a degree of informed subjectivity 

Additional Notes on Framework Design 

As compared to the issue of climate change, where we benefit from a variety of comprehensive, well-established frameworks for action (e.g. the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, or the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project) the existing frameworks that we've encountered for housing policy have tended to be somewhat less comprehensive and less well-established. 

We propose that this may be the case because the climate policy system has, in large part, at least chosen a clear direction away from fossil fuel-based economies and towards clean economies, with sticking points including the speed of the transition and distribution of costs and benefits. 

In contrast, the housing policy system arguably remains split between two opposing directions, with (a) some wanting housing and land prices/values to keep going up - contributing to economic growth and organizational and household wealth - and (b) others wanting housing and land prices/values to actually come down (relative to earnings) - in order to advance affordability. This "split personality" of the housing policy system exacerbates (or perhaps manifests as) the splitting of efforts into supply vs. demand side camps, market vs. non-market camps, or ownership vs. rental camps.

There have been attempts at developing a more comprehensive approach, but often the "split personality" problem is dodged or resolved only implicitly and/or the approach is limited by jurisdictional focus, for example:

  • "Homes for B.C.: a 30 point plan for housing affordability in British Columbia" is arguably the most comprehensive government approach to tackling the problem in Canada today and contains many bold steps, but even this plan has big holes including (a) largely leaving the issue of market supply to local governments, (b) little to no mention of protecting highly leveraged households in the face of what is clearly an effort to cool/drop housing costs, and (c) too narrow an approach to re-balancing the tax system to address massive inequalities between renters and owners, and young and old (eg. the plan [usefully] focuses on targeting extreme or special cases of housing wealth e.g. involving speculation, empty homes, satellite families, etc.). 

This lack of existing, well-established, comprehensive frameworks that share a clear direction is one reason why our own housing policy framework is less specific about sub-categories of policy, and why our associated housing affordability platform analysis only applies 9 key criteria (vs. 25 for climate); i.e. it is somewhat more general.  

However, readers will notice that while general, our framework does pick a clear direction, towards establishing and maintaining the opportunity for all Canadians to afford a good home, even if it means some gain less housing wealth in the process. 

For additional context on the housing affordability framework we're using during the 2019 federal election, please refer to our "Gameplan to fix the housing crisis" and the following document: "Housing Policy Framework and Policy Options for the 2019 Federal Election".

This Analysis is Non-Partisan 


Our vision of a Canada that works for all generations is a long-term vision. To achieve and maintain that vision, we need to bridge ideological and political divides in our society, and to find common ground among a diversity of people and perspectives. That’s why Gen Squeeze’s research and advocacy activities are designed to help all political parties and levels of government in the design of policy capable of achieving our vision.

At any given time, any given political party or government may be more or less responsive, and more or less circumstantially aligned with various aspects of our work. However, any relative responsiveness or circumstantial alignment in no way reflects an intention on our part to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, specific parties or candidates.

The intention of our 2019 federal election analysis is (a) to help all parties understand where there may be gaps in their current plans, (b) to help voters understand the strength and weaknesses of individual policies, and (c) to help voters understand the overall strength of each party’s plan on each of four key issues.  Strength is evaluated in terms of each plan’s assessed ability to solve the associated problem. At bottom, we aim to help voters go into the ballot box as informed as possible on our four key issues.

We neutrally assign an aggregate score for each party’s plan on each of the four issue areas NOT because we hope to point voters in one direction or another, but because we believe many voters will benefit from having access to a sense of the overall strength of the various promises that have been made relative to academic evidence about what is required to solve big problems squeezing younger generations. 

The frameworks and goals, key criteria, commentary and scores all reflect and distill many individual evidence-based policy positions of Generation Squeeze. Audiences should come away with a good sense of where we stand on the issues and how our positions compare to the positions of the major parties.  But our detailed commentary and scores are not intended to portray individual parties or candidates in inherently favourable or unfavourable ways.  We hope all party platforms will increasingly align with our evidence-based policy recommendations during this election, and thereafter.

  • In summary, we approach all of our work – including our 2019 federal election activities – in the true spirit of non-partisanship.

This Analysis is Evidence-Based 


Gen Squeeze’s research activities are coordinated by Dr. Paul Kershaw, who is an award-winning tenured Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia.   Among other accolades, Dr. Kershaw was honoured as the "Academic of the Year" in 2016 by the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC in recognition of his outstanding scholarship about Generation Squeeze.

By virtue of Dr. Kershaw’s professional responsibilities, and Gen Squeeze’s own commitment to organizational credibility and rigour, our public policy positions are rooted in our understanding of the best available evidence. 

This means that from time to time, our positions and policy interpretations will change, either because we’ve published or been made aware of new evidence, or because our understanding of existing evidence has been enhanced by a new perspective(s). 

No one person or organization ever has “the full picture,” which is why we admit our imperfect understanding, embrace nuance, and continually strive to identify and correct our own blind spots through collaboration. 

  • In summary, we approach all of our work — including our 2019 federal election activities — in the true spirit of openness, and evidence-based dialogue and decision-making.

Gen Squeeze is a Registered Third Party 


Because our platform analysis will be inherently taking a number of positions on issues with which candidates and parties may be associated, and spending more than $500 on paid advertising to help distribute this analysis, we are registering as a third party election advertisers during the 2019 federal election.

 

 

Housing Analysis - Methodology
Housing Analysis — Methodology
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