Housing FAQ

Housing FAQ

  1. What does affordable housing mean?
  2. What is core housing need?
  3. Why is housing so important?
  4. What is the City doing to respond to the current situation?
  5. Is housing really a municipal responsibility?
  6. Where can I find links to reports/publications for more information?

What does affordable housing mean?
According to the Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC):
In Canada, housing is considered affordable if shelter costs account for less than 30 per cent of before-tax household income. The term "affordable housing" is often used interchangeably with "social housing"; however, social housing is just one category of affordable housing and usually refers to rental housing subsidized by the government. Affordable housing is a much broader term and includes housing provided by the private, public and not-for-profit sectors as well as all forms of housing tenure (ie. rental, ownership and cooperative ownership). It also includes temporary as well as permanent housing. In other words, the term "affordable housing" can refer to any part of the housing continuum from temporary emergency shelters through transition housing, supportive housing, subsidized housing, market rental housing or market homeownership.”             
In the St. John's housing market, the task of securing adequate, affordable housing can be extremely difficult for people across the income spectrum. 

City of St. John's Housing Continuum

What is core housing need?

According to CMHC, a Household Is in Core Housing Need If

  • its housing does not meet one or more of the adequacy, suitability or affordability standards, and
  • it would have to spend 30 per cent or more of its before-tax income to access acceptable local housing.

11.9% (9000) households were in core housing need in St. John’s in 2011.

Why is housing so important?
Housing is a foundation upon which a prosperous, vibrant and healthy community is built. Investment in affordable housing solutions helps to produce many dividends for the entire community:

  • A secure labour force, especially in the essential service sector of the economy.
  • Healthy independent living for seniors.
  • The reduction of poverty.
  • Improved outcomes for employment, education, health and community safety.
  • Environmental sustainability through energy efficiency.

Affordable housing is about creating and promoting a range of housing choices as diverse as the city itself: different people have different housing needs based on their household size, employment, ability, health, income, stage in life, and a host of other factors.

Is housing really a municipal responsibility?
Municipalities have long been active and vocal on the issue of affordable housing.

The City of St. John’s owns and operates 454 units of affordable housing and its history of involvement in affordable housing issues spans five decades. The City’s traditional role in housing has included planning, zoning, development control, as well as enforcement of minimum standards and by-laws. The City has also provided land, waived fees, and expedited inspections to facilitate affordable housing initiatives by non-profit and private developers. We must engage many partners and pursue strategic solutions that multiply our efforts, including the other levels of government, as well as the community and private sectors.

Read more about the issue of affordable housing on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities website.

What is the City doing to respond to the current situation?
Building on our strengths in this area and past successes, the City will continue to provide strong leadership around affordable housing, with a commitment to actions:

  • Act as champions for issues across the affordable-housing continuum;
  • Reach out to partners for consultation and collaboration and apply a range of best practices and approaches;
  • Continue to support the work of End Homelessness St. John’s;
  • Support the Affordable Housing Working Group (AHWG) as they guide the affordable housing implementation strategies
  • Continue to provide support to the Non-Profit Housing Division in their provision of affordable housing and their coordination of efforts in this strategy;

The City of St. John’s will commit to providing leadership and building on partnerships to generate inclusive, affordable housing solutions that work for people across the housing continuum.

City of St. John’s 10-Year Affordable housing Strategy 2019-2028

The City of St. John’s will leverage its unique capacities and build strong partnerships to produce, protect and promote affordable housing for the people of St. John’s.
St. John’s will be a vibrant, inclusive and thriving city with a wide range of affordable housing options that contribute directly to community health, sustainable growth and economic security.
Strategic Directions
Built from a strong foundation of public engagement and research on our current local housing situation and emerging trends, the six strategic components below related to affordable housing will be addressed in the new 10-year affordable housing strategy. Listed in no order of importance:

  • Unlocking Resources: Identify and draw on the City’s resources and assets to advance housing initiatives and create new opportunities.
  • Building Homes: Increase the stock and sustainability of affordable rental and home ownership opportunities.           
  • Leading Innovation: Inspire and facilitate creativity in affordable housing projects.
  • Revitalizing Policy: Create municipal policy and plans that strive to meet affordable housing needs of residents.
  • Cultivating Partnership: Work with all levels of government, private and community partners to address housing issues. Support partner efforts and work collectively to create solutions.
  • Informing Action: Raise awareness and educate what the impact housing needs has on our community’s health, sustainable growth and economic security.

Implementation strategies to support each component have been developed and are listed in the complete strategy document

Affordable Housing Working Group (AHWG)

The main hub for the City’s leadership on this issue is the Affordable Housing Working Group (AHWG) formerly the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Affordable Housing (MACAH). The Affordable Housing Working Group is primarily responsible for the implementation of the Affordable Housing Strategy approved by the City in 2018. In implementing the plan, the AHWG is to consider relevant City policies and activities which impact the plan and ensure communication with the appropriate parties.

Housing Catalyst Fund
The Housing Catalyst Fund allows the City to be a catalyst for practical and collaborative projects that produce tangible housing solutions for people. The City’s role through this fund is to work collaboratively with community groups and others such as builders and developers to facilitate and plan housing solutions that will enhance the quality for life for individuals and families and build a healthier community. Anyone with an affordable housing project or program idea can apply for up to $10,000 per project. To be considered, projects must be solution focused and action oriented and must be in line with the City’s Affordable Housing Strategy Objectives. The Housing Catalyst Fund Application form is found here.

Non-Profit Housing
The City of St. John’s, Non-Profit Housing Division, is responsible for administration and management of over 450 residential rental units throughout the City. These houses and apartments vary in size from one to four-bedroom units and are available for rent to low and moderate income earners on the basis of net family income. The type of housing provided by the City ranges from a 65-unit apartment building on Hamilton Avenue to infill in the downtown core. While the majority of the housing provided by the City is in the Downtown area, we do provide housing as far east as Forest Road and as far west as Brookfield Road. Application for Accommodation - Non-Profit Housing is found here.

Where can I find links to reports/publications for more information?

All related affordable housing reports/documents can be found on the City’s website under 'Housing' section on the Publications page on our website