What are social offsets?

To introduce the concept of social offsets, I wrote a FAQ making the assumptions that the idea is already up and running. This first post introduces the basics for discussion. You can read my full (still evolving FAQ) here

What is a “social offset”?

  • A social offset is an investment you can make to offset the social impact of your housing choices. Just as a carbon offset mitigates your impact on the climate, a social offset mitigates your impact on housing affordability in your community by creating new alternatives for residents

Why are social offsets needed?

  • New developments in areas such as the Downtown East Site (DTES) of Vancouver can be great economic stimulants and start to regenerate neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the benefits of this revitalization are distributed very unevenly. Existing low-income resident are no longer able to afford to live in their own neighbourhood. They are often forced to leave – either for economic reasons or simply because they have been evicted and their building torn down

How does it work?

  • When you buy a social offset, you are contributing to a national fund to build local projects. The philosophy is “give nationally, build locally”
  • The goal of this approach is to engage citizens across the country to become part of the solution by funding innovative creative solutions for affordable housing. Local expertise is used to evaluate proposals ensuring both community involvement and community appropriateness
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3 responses to “What are social offsets?

  1. You say “Just as a carbon offset mitigates your impact on the climate, a social offset mitigates your impact on housing affordability in your community by creating new alternatives for residents”

    I am not clear about what exactly the social offset is tied to? Who is impacting housing affordability? How? Owning, Renting, or Purchasing? What less impactful choices do we have?

  2. Hi folks,

    Because land and natural resources are finite, the cost of housing will inevitably go up. In a society where the gap between rich and poor is growing, and where people are very mobile, this means that those with wealth will continue to be able to access housing while it will become more and more out of reach for those with less $.

    There are many ways to respond to this issue – taxes and public invest in housing for one. I think the social offset is a clever option for indirect redistribution of wealth through the financing of affordbale housing.

  3. socialoffsets

    Kevin – thanks for the questions.

    The idea of offsetting comes from a analogy with mitigating carbon production. Really what an offset is doing is attempting to keep your level of carbon emission the same before and after an activity such as travel.

    In this case, the equilibrium to be maintained is the availability of housing units in an area such as the DTES that is undergoing revitalization.

    The offsets purchases would go into a fund to create new housing for residents displaced by development.

    I am curious about your question re: “less impactful choices”. What kind of things were you thinking of?

    Brian – you make a good point about mobility. Are you suggesting that because of this, we should be concerned about impacts of our housing choices outside the neighbourhoods in which we live? That is a very interesting idea and one that could help engage a wider community in awareness of housing issues as Reilly mentions in her comment

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