Canada’s Housing Affordability Crisis

For people on low incomes, Canada’s rental housing market is in crisis.

Rents have been escalating in many cities, and high rent increases are being demanded by many property owners. As well, the high number of Airbnb units has greatly reduced the number of rental units available; and many rooming houses have been displaced by new condo developments. In Toronto alone, there are over 100,000 individuals on the waitlist for subsidized units at Toronto Community Housing, and in the city of Edmonton, over 22,000 people pay more than 50% of their monthly income on rent. In contrast, there have been hundreds of billions of dollars in direct and tax subsidies to fund home ownership.

25 years ago the federal government cancelled its national social housing supply program which provided about 20,000 new units per year (from the 1960s to 1990s). That austerity measure means that today low income households must compete for access to fewer and more expensive rental units in an aging stock of private and social rental housing. Also, the cost of ‘starter homes’ has skyrocketed.
See: 20-years-ago-canada-had-a-housing-plan

Even under the recently announced ‘National Housing Strategy’ very little new social housing is being built. David Hulchanski, Professor of Housing and Community Development at the University of Toronto, notes that “the needs of vulnerable populations will not be met by the Federal government’s recent National Housing Strategy, and that the proposed subsidies will help very few in housing need”. See “Ottawa has not put forth a national housing strategy”

In Ontario there are over 950,000 individuals on social assistance and many more earning minimum wage; most of these individuals and families do not have access to subsidized housing. And people who rent do not receive the substantial tax benefits that home owners receive when they sell their homes. Homeowners pay no capital gains tax when they sell their house, and the extreme inflation in the market value of real estate benefits existing home owners and raises residential land values and rent levels, thereby punishing people who rent or hope to purchase a home.

Priorities & Choices
is a platform for individuals and organizations to coordinate their efforts for public education and citizen engagement. We need to show the politicians that there are citizens who care about the injustices affecting the most vulnerable.

A basic premise underlying our call for a shift in Priorities is that greatly increased funding is required for low-rental housing, including co-ops, non-profit housing and low-cost home ownership. Redirecting more Federal dollars to create this rental housing has to be a priority!

Contact:  Kevin Shereves  –                  

5 thoughts on “Canada’s Housing Affordability Crisis

  1. As a young person who looks forward to investing in her own house in the coming 4-5 years, articles of this nature deeply concern me at times. I am by no means an expert on real estate but through the media I am constantly being reminded about how hard it is going to be for young people today to purchase a home. I believe our government needs to take this problem more seriously because it becomes a systematic way to further exclude the marginalized and vulnerable of society. These budget cuts in housing policies that are meant to help lower income citizens (who majority of the time are racialized) then become significant obstacles in the way if upward social mobilization for these groups. Also, many people are getting to make bad choices, the outcome of two great tendencies — lagging incomes for low- and moderate-income households, and the soaring price of construction, says Chris Herbert, Managing director of Harvard University’s Joint Centre for Construction Study, “You see this and think, ‘is it the housing issue, or is it an income issue?’ I could say it is both.” Affordability of housing in Canada shows a complicated contradiction. By 2004, 1.7 million Canadians had housing affordability issues, yet Canada is believed to remain among those more inexpensive spaces to live. The Canadian government’s national policies happen when affordability of housing is stressed to the end that home ownership turns into an unavailable option even to people with full-time work. Housing costs and business prices have grown dramatically in Canada as they get elsewhere in the world.

      1. Dania, thank you for providing such interesting insights. One thing that particular stuck with me was that, “through the media I am constantly being reminded about how hard it is going to be for young people today to purchase a home.” I have had those thoughts as well about myself and people our age. Sometimes I just casually go online and look at the prices of homes sold close by my house, and sometimes I see some insane prices. Most recently, I saw Narcity or BlogTO posting about a fairly small home that was sold for one-million dollars. While in my response I mentioned how the “underprivileged” of society, but reading your response made me reflect on this fact and realized that even though I am living in a family in good financial state, I do not know if when I graduate and get a job I will even be able to buy my own home and that is a crisis. A factor on top is job seeking, which I have heard may be difficult for young people as well (all depends on what field of education you are in). If the government truly wants to care about young people and the future of Canada, they must make opportunities for jobs and affordable housing – with a CONCRETE PLAN.

  2. I’ve been spending the last hour re-reading over and over again this article from “Priorities and Choices” regarding Canada’s Housing Affordability. My father was a refugee from Vietnam while my mother was an immigrant, sponsored by my father and came to Canada after their marriage in 2000. Six years later, they luckily managed to purchase a house after years of living in an apartment building in Downtown Toronto. Looking back, my parents have said that they were lucky to be able to purchase a house at the right place and time because prices for homes have risen. The house we currently live in have risen up in value especially as in the nearly 15 years we’ve lived at the house, so many developments have come up as there have been many more amenities and services close to our home accessible through a short 10-15 minute walk.

    However, as mentioned in the article, Canada and Toronto included are now in a “housing crisis.” A fact that baffles me is that, “the high number of Airbnb units has greatly reduced the number of rental units available; and many rooming houses have been displaced by new condo developments.” The thing that baffles me is the fact, it seems, that the rich people are getting richer while the poorer are constantly in a disadvantaged state compared to the others. The people who have homes can get new homes for Airbnb and make even more money while the people who cannot even find a home or find one that they can afford. This is the sad reality that we face because I believe that we have enough housing in Toronto to serve the needs of all its citizens. However, the housing at this point is either unaffordable or used for profit gaining by developers and/or entrepreneurs. While I am nothing against Airbnb, it makes no sense to make profit from such rents, nor should Airbnbs be a thing in a city when people are going around searching for affordable housing. “Priority and Choices” is right to say that this should be the priority of the government in the future because this is clearly and injustice. The advantaged keep on moving forward while the disadvantaged in society are in a sense moving backwards. That should not be so – governmental bodies should be focused on the common good of all and help all peoples to be on the same page so to ensure that all have enough to live on comfortably, in particular: food, water and shelter.

    1. This is extremely interesting and is definitely something to reflect on. Before reading this article, I had never realized that Canadian housing is so unaffordable for large numbers of people. It is really making me reflect on my future and how this might affect me if things do not change. Housing/Shelter is a basic need of life and Canada is has a great economy and has a lot of land, so you would think you can easily get somewhere to live. But, with the popularity of investing in real estate like air bnbs, many people are using homes as a way to make themselves richer, leaving many people unable to find affordable homes especially when after graduating college and possibly in debt from student loans. “In 2015, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported that growth in demand for housing was outpacing construction of new housing units. By this measure, the key problem is the supply of housing units. By comparison, perhaps the most popular cause of the crisis is the rise of the luxury market and an increase in short-term rentals. The combined effect for low and middle-income families is a shortage of homes (leading to higher prices) and for the wealthy, a glut of luxury homes” (Fester, 2020). I am sure by now, since we are in the year of 2021, the issue is even worse. As Vincent wrote, the world is structured for the rich to get richer and the poor to stay poor; it is ridiculous. As well, I completely agree with Dania, who wrote that “it becomes a systematic way to further exclude the marginalized and vulnerable of society.” As it truly is, and it all ties back into capitalism. We live in a capitalist country, which has its pros, as you get to reap what you sow. But it absolutely has its cons as well as it largely benefits those who are wealthy/born into wealth which causes many disadvantages for those who are not as fortunate. I believe the government really needs to step up and think of a solution for this crisis, because shelter is truly a human right, and the government has a responsibility to protect our rights; they need to recognize and support lower class communities who are affected by this issue. I was engaging in some additional research on this topic, and in the article referenced below, I was reading that many people spend up to half of their income just to pay for housing. Forget food, utility bills, clothes, schooling, transportation etc.; half of their income is used for housing, I just find that baffling because there are so many other necessary expenses of life.


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