York undergrads take second place in CivicSpark competition

A team of four York University students earned a second-place finish at the second annual CivicSpark Undergraduate Public Policy Competition.

Dena Hosseini, Jaspinder Chera, Matthew Singh and Marcia Garnes

CivicSpark is a University of Toronto organization dedicated to empowering a new generation of city builders by providing a non-partisan platform for students to develop creative solutions to real problems in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA).

The students behind CivicSpark brought together 13 undergraduate teams from universities across the GTHA to present their solutions to the affordable housing crisis in the second annual competition.

Teams were asked to analyze the topic and provide policy proposal in the form of a PowerPoint presentation and an executive summary.

The team from York – made up of students Matthew Singh (psychology major, School of Public Policy & Administration, Public Policy Analysis Certificate); Jaspinder Chera (psychology major); Dena Hosseini (psychology major); and Marcia Garnes (urban studies major) – was one of 13 teams selected to present their ideas.

Their idea to create a three-tier policy to resolve the GTHA affordable housing crisis moved them into the finals, and was presented to a two-person panel of government and industry experts, who awarded them second place.

“The CivicSpark competition was an excellent experience,” said Garnes. “It allowed us to practice valuable professional skills like critical thinking, researching, writing an executive summary, analyzing data and presentation skills. We were able to apply the academic skills we learned at York University to a real-world problem. The topic at hand is a loaded and complicated dilemma. We approached this complex problem with attainable solutions which addressed the problem from both a planning and economic perspective, and at all three levels of government.”

Their proposed solution involved using existing municipal and federal land for social housing; introducing a vacant home tax; increasing the capital gains tax on non-primary residences; taxing the monthly income of non-primary homes; introducing a foreign buyer tax; and introducing a municipal land transfer tax to the other GTHA municipalities.

For more information, visit civicspark.ca.

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