Sue Moen

For Campbell River City Councilor


Sue Moen

For Campbell River City Councilor

The Case for Social Investment

Sep 21, 2022 | Housing, Local Economies

Most of us will have heard of ROI - return on investment. This is the phrase used to convince us that putting money into something will earn us interest or value for that investment. And sometimes, that is true over the long term. What we choose to invest in and how long our horizon for that return is an individual decision considering personal risks and benefits. Social Return on Investments is about the collective.

I am most familiar with the housing sector, but I have found similar results in studies of arts and culture, and early childhood education investments that show that for every dollar invested, society gets a return of $1.30 to $7.00. That is a strong economic argument to counter the narrative that ‘we can’t afford’ to address social justice issues.

As governments seek more cost efficient ways to support citizens and communities to thrive, studies suggest that investment in affordable housing generates important economic and social returns. While Campbell River may not choose to invest directly in the construction or re-development of affordable housing (i.e. households spending less than 30% of income on housing costs), we can improve the inventory through land donations to non-profit housing developers; re- and pre-zoning and decreased permitting costs and waits. We can also require for-profit developers to include a percentage of affordable units in their developments as other jurisdictions do.

A case study commissioned by BC Housing shows that for every dollar invested in supporting affordable housing, between two and three dollars in social and economic value is created for individuals, governments, and communities. The study found that, beyond the economic stimulation that housing construction generates, there is approximately 20-30% ‘value added’ when this construction results in affordable housing, and 92% ‘value added’ when that affordable housing is targeted to, and includes support for, marginalised populations.

I have summarized some of the results from the recent study mentioned above( BK-SROI-Summary-Social-Economic-Value-Supportive-Affordable-Housing.pdf )

Affordable housing impacts not only the residents, but also the local neighbourhoods, and communities more broadly:

Affordable housing residents enjoy increased disposable income that can translate directly into increased spending in local communities.This increased local spending can increase economic diversity and sustainability

Increased housing stability leads to greater ability to engage in employment, provide positive environments for child rearing, and participate in the community.

Housing is a key social determinant of health.

Affordable housing residents may impact the social diversity of a neighbourhood.

During affordable housing construction there is a direct impact on local communities as community members have the opportunity to gain construction-related employment, and local businesses are supported by construction-related purchasing.

Most research finds no significant negative effect on property values in proximity to affordable housing developments. Furthermore, property values examined in the studies consistently increased when affordable housing was created through the redevelopment of existing capital assets.

Communities with adequate affordable housing options gain a more stable workforce by reducing common causes of employee stress and absenteeism, including high housing costs and mobility, lengthy and costly commutes, and poor adult and child health due to unsuitable living conditions.

Q’waxsem Place – 580 Dogwood