University of Calgary

University of Calgary

January 23, 2012 12:00 ET

University of Calgary: Reward homeless for finding homes

New study proposes using power of incentives to help keep people off of Calgary's streets

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Jan. 23, 2012) - In a paper released today by The School of Public Policy, Professor Brendan O'Flaherty offers a straightforward method for fighting homelessness that contrasts many current programs already in place to deal with this important social issue.

"If you want people to be housed rather than homeless, reward them for being housed," O'Flaherty argues.

Specifically, O'Flaherty advocates the introduction of an Optimal Homelessness-Reducing Home Allowance (OHRHA), which would take the form of a flat amount rewarded to people for each night that they are not homeless.

What would differentiate OHRHA from existing social assistance programs would be its simplicity and purpose. "Other housing allowances were designed with other goals in mind," the author writes. "The virtual exclusion of non-elderly single adults from these programs is pretty good evidence that they were not intended to reduce homelessness."

Programs like Alberta Works or provincial housing allowances impose special criteria that must be met in order to receive payments. O'Flaherty indicates that OHRHA would have only one rule: you receive payment if you are housed.

In terms of funding such a program, the author recommends imposing a new land value tax on Calgary property owners. He argues that the advantage of such a tax is that any costs would be absorbed by the positive impact of OHRHA on land prices. In fact, the tax would be proportional to land value increments.

The study can be found online by going to www.policyschool.ucalgary.ca/publications.

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