2019 Voter's Guide Factsheets: Affordable Housing

40% of renters in Canada are paying rents that aren’t affordable.

Ottawa (10 Oct. 2019) —The National Union’s fact sheet on affordable housing looks at how parties are proposing to fix a growing problem for many Canadians — finding a place they can afford to live.

Whether people are looking for a place to rent or own, housing costs are rising faster than incomes. Depending on where people live, housing prices have increased by between 5 and 10 times as fast as the average income. 40% of renters in Canada are paying rents that aren’t affordable (over 30% of income).

Housing affordability a problem for both low and middle income Canadians

In most Canadian cities, it is no longer possible for a person earning minimum wage to afford a one bedroom apartment. 235,000 Canadians are homeless for at least some of the year. But it is not just low-income Canadians who are being affected.

A Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report released in July 2019 looked at how much a person would have to earn to afford a one or two bedroom apartment in different Canadian cities. In almost all cases that amount was higher than the median income – meaning most people aren’t earning enough to afford an apartment.

Even low and middle income Canadians who bought houses when prices were lower are affected. They are worried about their children or grandchildren finding a decent place to live. And they wonder where they will find a home if they are ever forced to move.

Federal funding needed to increase the supply of affordable housing

Until the 1990s, federal and provincial governments funded roughly 20,000 new affordable housing units a year. Those units helped people find a place to live that they could afford.

Today we need much more than 20,000 housing units a year. In addition to having to make up for almost three decades when very little affordable housing was built, Canada’s population is 1/3 higher than it was in the 1990s.

Public, non-profit and co-op housing stays affordable

When affordable housing is owned by governments, housing co-operatives or non-profit organizations, it stays affordable. That doesn’t happen when governments subsidize private, for-profit corporations to build housing. Instead, as soon as they are legally allowed to, for-profit landlords are likely to raise rents so housing is no longer affordable.

If we want housing to stay affordable, who owns it is important. Subsidizing private, for-profit landlords may take less effort in the short-term, but in the long-term it’s not the most effective way to increase the supply of affordable housing.