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Review of Charitable Sector Senate Report, “Catalyst for Change: In Support of the Charitable Sector”

Canada’s charitable and non-profit sector

In late June, the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector released the report Catalyst for Change: in Support of the Charitable Sector, that outlines the many challenges Canada’s charitable and non-profit sector face, and includes 42 recommendations aimed at improving the strength of the sector.

Below is a highlight of the recommendations that have the greatest relevance and potential impact for the affordable housing sector. If adopted by the Federal government, the recommendations would improve the development context for affordable housing.

Government of Canada should support the development of pensions for the sector. (Recommendation 5)

Many individuals leave the charitable and non-profit sector because they do not see a secure future for themselves within it. Others live in poverty after devoting their lives to serving the community.

Government of Canada should work with the sector to develop and implement an HR renewal plan to ensure long-term sustainability of the workforce. (Recommendation 6)

An HR renewal plan would assist charitable and non-profit organizations to attract and keep the staff they need to deliver high quality services, while improving the sustainability of organizations and reducing job precarity.

Overhead and infrastructure costs are important to program delivery and sustainability. Charities and non-profits should have access to the same government programs as the for-profit sector, at a minimum. (Recommendation 11)

Although it may seem counterintuitive, the for-profit sector is able to access government programs to cover overhead and infrastructure costs. Recommendation 11 suggests that such initiatives be extended to the charitable and non-profit sector.

Grant charities greater latitude in undertaking revenue-generating activities if the proceeds are used to further charitable purposes and provide clarity on revenue generation. (Recommendations 28 & 29)

In regards to affordable housing, these recommendations could help ensure that mixed-income models are no longer off limits. In mixed income developments, low end of market rents in some units would offset deeply targeted rents in other units.

The Government of Canada should consider which activities charities should not be allowed to carry out. (Recommendation 33)

Currently, there is a lack of clarity as to which activities registered charities are not allowed to carry out. As a result, charities spend administrative time and dollars on regulatory gymnastics in their attempts to get affordable housing projects approved.

Government of Canada should revise its interpretation of “not-for-profit purpose rule” to provide clarity and certainty for non-profit organizations on the extent to which they can hold surplus income. (Recommendation 38)

The ability to hold surplus income is integral to running well-maintained buildings and investing in the development of new ones. Ultimately, the Senate Committee’s recommendations recognize that being a non-profit or charity should not impede profit creation—what they do with the profit is the central question we should all be asking.

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