Fannie Mae Foundation
When the development of large-scale public housing projects was discontinued in the 1970s in both Canada and the United States, the policy responses were very different. This article reviews the nature of the dissimilar low-income housing policy paths, documenting the role of federal housing policy in the evolution of a significant nonprofit "third sector" in Canada's housing system; the decision of the U.S. federal government to rely on the private sector for subsidized rental supply; and, with very little help from the federal government, the "bottom-up" attempt to develop a nonprofit housing sector in communities throughout the United States. In Canada, a permanent stock of good-quality, nonprofit social housing was created along with a growing and increasingly competent community-based housing development sector. The Canadian experience demonstrates that it takes time to build the capacity of the nonprofit sector. The U.S. experience demonstrates that there is a great deal of community-based talent ready and willing to provide nonprofit housing if reliable and adequate funding is available. Canada has made outstanding progress relative to the United States in the area of affordable housing supply, creating yet another small but significant difference in the quality of life for lower income households. The general Canadian approach to consistent national support of nonprofit and co-operative housing can be applied in the United States. Canada's relative success is not based on unique structural or systemic differences -- that is, it is a matter of political choice and political will. The United States should look to Canada's 20-year experience to determine whether some of the mechanisms used to support Canada's nonprofit sector might be transferable to the United States.
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