The High Cost of Waiting: Tenant-Focused Solutions to Enhance Housing Affordability 

The Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC) undertook this report to address one of the most intractable challenges facing low income Edmonton households: the excessively long waits for affordable rental accommodation. The long waits not only inflict financial and emotional hardship on low income renter households. They also create the real risk that these households could end up homeless without a roof over their heads.

Finding the best solutions for reducing wait lists and improving housing affordability has been a major research focus for the ESPC over many years. That’s why we applied to and were pleased to receive funding from Homeward Trust Edmonton’s Community Based Research program to explore the high cost of waiting and tenant-focused solutions for making rental housing more affordable. The decision by the federal government to fund and implement a portable housing benefit made the exploration of this topic particularly timely.

In past ESPC research reports, most low and modest income renter households told usthey preferred to receive rental assistance directly and then apply the subsidy to a rental unit of their choosing. In this report ESPC set out to explore if this was also the case for those on wait lists for affordable housing.

This report set out to answer three key questions:

1)What are the impacts on quality of life for households who have to wait for prolonged periods of time to obtain safe, affordable and suitable rental accommodation?

2)Given limited financial resources, what are the most effective ways to reduce and gradually eliminate long waits for affordable housing?

3)How can the proposed Canada Housing Benefit (CHB) be best designed in the Edmonton context to ensure that it complements existing affordable housing programs?

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