Community housing, a defense against climate change
Our ecosystem is in shock.
Global warming, extreme storms, heat waves, and floods, melting glaciers, loss of biodiversity, depletion of soils and seas; there is no shortage of signs to demonstrate that nature is increasingly in crisis. The Community Housing Transformation Center joins the scientific consensus on the issue and recognizes that human intervention is largely responsible for these upheavals.
Technological advances in the past two centuries have accelerated the pace and extent of land grabbing for our species.
Until today, collectively, we have chosen to ignore the consequences of our actions on fauna, flora, climate, atmosphere, and land, but this choice is no longer possible.
If we do not decide to pay nature more respect , it may very well decide to punish us and bring us to order in such an extreme way that many generations to come will remember us with contempt, anger, and bitterness for our selfishness, arrogance, and the lightness with which we will have viewed the warning signs of the climate crisis.
Housing contributes greatly to the negative environmental impact of humanity.
The construction of our homes is generally done without real consideration for local ecosystems; the materials used are less and less durable; construction techniques favour speed of execution at the expense of quality; engineering is much more concerned with reducing initial costs rather than operating costs; architecture takes little account of the environmental context and encourages developments that promote individualism and neglect the fulfillment brought by community; the dominant urban planning standards impose a territorial organization that requires enormous recurrent expenses (in time, money and energy) to fulfill our productive, health, social, and cultural obligations, rather than to encourage the combination of use and functionality; the authorities adopt an attitude of laissez-faire and individual hogging in the organization of services such as heating, water, sewers, garbage collection, energy, subdivision, and development of land.
There are so many areas where it is possible, and therefore necessary, to act.
In addition to their catastrophic environmental impacts, two common features link all of the problems listed above. First, an approach marked by a short-term vision that favours immediate ease at the expense of long-term effectiveness. Second, the absence of collective considerations in the appropriation of a good (the land) by an individual without regard to the consequences – financial, social or environmental -of his actions on their peers and their environments.
The Centre firmly believes that community housing can and should be a leader in experimenting and implementing new standards, methods, and approaches to reduce pressure on the planet.
This belief is based on the fact that the foundations of community housing correspond to those of an ecological approach. In our view, such an approach is characterized by three very positive features.
We can think here of the rational use of resources through the sharing of space, equipment, and services. In itself, this sharing has the consequence of reducing the individual environmental footprint of the inhabitants of a given place, without decreasing the satisfaction associated with its use. For example, a central heating system is generally more efficient than a series of individual systems.
The will to intervene in a way that promotes the interests of the largest number in the short, medium and long term is also a distinctive aspect of community housing. This vision allows for consideration of elements other than short-term individual financial performance, which benefit the whole community and the environment. For example, community housing projects may choose to densify living space in order to keep part of the land in its natural state rather than subdivide all the land for the individual benefit of each owner, more often than not at the expense of the local ecosystem.
Likely, the strongest environmental aspect inherent in community housing is its non-speculative nature. In the end, in real estate as in all areas, private owners normally seeks to gain the greatest possible profit from their investment. This is why private developers of rental housing seek to make the most modest investments possible, hoping to resell at the highest possible price. In this spirit, the choice of materials and the quality of construction techniques are of very little importance, as these elements only marginally influence resale. It is much more determined by the possible rise in rents and site redevelopment potential toward lower social value functions. We have all witnessed such choices and their harmful consequences on local ecosystems, whether it be through the destruction of materials, land, and infrastructure or from a social standpoint like evictions and an uneven supply of public services like schools, clinics, parks etc.
The open and participative decision-making structure of community housing, its integration into the social fabric, and its ability to assess the social and environmental return on an investment makes it an approach that fits more harmoniously into an approach centered around ecological intelligence.
Consequently, the Centre sets the following objectives for itself to:
- Help housing providers reduce their environmental footprint
- Help tenants and members reduce their environmental footprint
- Promote the use of existing tools and encourage the adoption of best practices
While we now know housing plays a significant role in carbon emissions, many community housing providers are confused about steps to take to reverse the trend. Concerned with rising energy prices and renovation costs, groups turn to the Centre’s regional energy coaches for valuable, free of charge, expertise.
Afraid they could be pushed out of their changing neighbourhood, a group of neighbours organized and formed their own cooperative. A shared passion for environmentally friendly design lay the groundwork for a net-zero, and socially inclusive, housing ecosystem.
The construction and operation of buildings is responsible for a large part of global carbon emissions. Ever wondered how you can do your part to make housing greener? Here are a few ideas—that could also benefit from a grant from the Centre—to get you started.
Out of the mists of Owen Sound, Ontario, a net-zero land trust project is taking form that hopes to inspire and encourage ecologically sustainable forms of modern, non-profit housing communities across Canada.
Indigenous people are often the first to feel the effects of climate change. From disruptions of traditional hunting and fishing routines to shortened ice-road seasons, the ecological crisis affects daily life in very concrete ways in Canada’s northern communities. Since housing is the largest consumer of energy, the Indigenous Clean Energy (ICE) Social Enterprise seeks to share innovative approaches both within Indigenous communities and with the community-housing sector as a whole.
The CMHC’s annual Northern Housing Report paints a bleak picture of the housing market in Canada’s northern territories, where a high percentage of residents lack suitable, adequate and affordable housing.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FCM) Sustainable Affordable Housing initiative is putting $300 million on the table to offset the cost of environmentally friendly measures at all project stages, including planning, study, piloting, capital construction or retrofit. In partnership with FCM, the Community Housing Transformation Centre is working to assist affordable housing providers to tap into the funds.
In a world where climate change has presented us with new record heatwaves this summer, urgent action is needed if we are to prevent the worst outcomes of global warming. Thus, at the Centre, we define environmental sustainability as one of our key priority areas. As...
Aging housing stock, rising energy costs and increasing demand for affordable housing have created a unique challenge for affordable housing providers. Through the Sustainable Affordable Housing Initiative, funding is available to municipal and non-profit...
Sectoral Impact Projects
Develop new services, models or tools to help the sector build and manage affordable housing.
Sector Transformation Fund
Enhance the capacity of your local organization to provide affordable housing in a better way.
Community-Based Tenant Initiative
Develop projects that aim to engage tenants/co-op members in housing decisions that affect them.