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Asset-Building in Canada

SEDI recognizes that poverty is not just a question of income Ė itís also an isssue of assets. Building savings and assets is one of our most progressive approaches to alleviating poverty and fostering independence. The idea is to enable poor and working poor Canadians to save more money faster, in order to acquire assets such as a new business, home ownership, post secondary education, or job training. Our Asset-Building Initiatives involve a combination of money, investment education and financial training, with a focus on linking low-income persons and communities with local non-profit agencies and financial institutions.

SEDI is an expert in the asset-building field - responsible for bringing the concept of asset-building for low-income people to Canada in 1997.

Our initiatives include:

One of the most important assets is education. SEDI has created a project called, an exciting opportunity for over 3,000 low-income earners to boost their savings so that they can afford skills training, schooling or to start-up a small business while measuring the impacts throughout and for up to 2 years after the project is delivered .matches the savings each participant puts aside in an Individual Development Account (IDA), dollar for dollar, paid directly to the school or institution . Through the IDA account, participants can build their personal savings and earn a credit for a matching amount by saving as little as $10 a month over 1 to 3 years. In most areas, the personal savings will be matched at $3 for every dollar saved up to the first $1,500. This matching contribution puts low-income Canadians on an equal footing with higher income Canadians who can afford to put away more of their own money.

Between June 2001 and November 2003, partner organizations recruited candidates in 10 communities across the country.  Recruitment is now complete.

This project is the largest of its kind in the world. Itís delivered in partnership with the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) and is funded by Human Resources & Social Development Canada (HRSDC).

For more information onand other savings and assets initiatives, contact Adam Fair at

In the Fall/Winter of2004, SEDI launched its newest asset-building initiative - ILA (Independent Living Accounts) Project.  Designed to assist people living in transitional housing access the private rental market, the ILA project uses the asset-building concepts of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), matched savings, and financial literacy supports to help people reach their goals.  Eligible participants can earn a matching credits of $2 to $3 (depending on the project site) for every $1 they save, up to a specified amount.  In Toronto, for example, this means that a participant can save up to $400, receive up to $1,200 in matched credits, for a total of $1,600 to use towards first and last month's rent and/or utility hook-up and expenses.

This project is the first of its kind in the world and is being offered to residents of transitional housing facilities in Edmonton, Toronto and Fredericton.  It is expected that up to 180 residents will participate.

For more information on ILAs and other asset-building initiatives.  contact Adam Fair at

SEDI is currently developing a new asset-building initiative called . In May 2004 SEDI was contracted by CMHC to commence the design phase of the Home$ave pilot project.  With interest from both the public and private sector, including the Provincial Government of Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba as well as from the Cities of Hamilton (Hamilton Community Housing), City of Toronto (Toronto Community Housing Corporation and the Regent Park redevelopment), City of Fredericton and the City of Ottawa and various financial institutions as well as both national and international agencies, SEDI is fuelled to enter into this critical phase of this important project.

For more information, contact Adam Fair at

Asset-based approaches in other countries

Asset-based policy and programming is gaining significant currency around the world. Organizations and individuals in countries such as Taiwan, Sweden, Australia, Singapore, the United States of America and the United Kingdom are exploring various options for asset-based approaches to enhancing social and economic participation for all citizens.

As part of our savings and assets policy research and program development, SEDI works with leaders of the IDA and asset-based field outside Canada.

Asset-Building in the United States

The Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED)
The goal of CFED's pioneering work to promote Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), Children's Savings Accounts (CSAs) and other asset-building tools is to complement and strengthen income support policies for the poor with policies that promote asset ownership. In 1997, CFED initiated the American Dream Demonstration, the first large-scale test of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) as a social and economic development tool for low-income communities. Although ADD is now in its final year, more than 250 communities now offer IDA programs across the US, supported by federal and state legislation. Most recently, CFED has partnered with other US organizations to develop a youth IDA pilot.

The Center for Social Development (CSD)
A unit of the George Warren Brown School of Social Work (GWB) at Washington University in St. Louis, CSD is the leading academic center of theory and research on asset building. CSD plays a leading role in designing and carrying out evaluations of IDA programs, including the American Dream Demonstration. Internationally, CSD's work has influenced policy development in the United Kingdom, Canada, Taiwan, and Australia. is a website launched by the New America Foundation.  It serves as an information gateway for individuals and organizations interested in asset-building in the U.S. and around the world, including Canada.

IDA Network
The IDA Network serves as a gateway to the individuals, organizations, and ideas that are collectively shaping the Individual Development Account (IDA) field. The IDA network is an online community comprised of community economic development professionals, IDA VISTA (Volunteers in Service To America) members, account holders, financial institution representatives, federal and state policy makers, legislative staff, social policy researchers, press members, and others who share a commitment to expanding opportunities for low-income families to build financial and human capital. Registration is required to take full advantage of the Network's interactive features.

Asset-based policy in the United Kingdom
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)
IPPR has established its own Centre for Asset-based Welfare to refine and expand the research and policy development that the IPPR has done to date, to act as a focus point for domestic and international networks and to act as a resource for other groups interested in piloting and implementing asset-based policies. In the UK, asset-based policy could, in the future, be a third pillar of the welfare state, complementing income-based policy and provision of services. This possible future is exemplified by the Blair government's proposal for commitment to a Child Trust Fund or "baby-bond" - an idea developed by the IPPR.

For Individuals
Learn more about the program from the end users's perspective.