New report reveals that Canada is missing 4.4M affordable homes for people in housing need
November 2, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – Office of the Federal Housing Advocate
Today, the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate released a new analysis of Canada’s housing supply shortage that found it is missing 4.4 million homes that are affordable to people in housing need.
The figures show a current deficit of 3 million homes for low and very low income households in housing need who can only afford less than $1,050 per month, and a further 1.4 million missing homes for moderate and median income households in housing need.
In other words, the creation of 4.4 million homes that are permanently affordable and accessible represents what is currently needed to restore affordability to Canada’s housing system.
The report, produced by housing policy expert Carolyn Whitzman, applied a human rights-based approach to the analysis of housing supply needs in Canada. Its calculations take into account housing needs across the country by income category, household size and priority population.
The report includes, for the first time, students, those who are homeless, and people living in congregate housing – such as long-term care or supportive housing for people with disabilities – to the census count of people in “core housing need”.
The report published today is a new way of looking at housing supply in Canada. It focuses on the circumstances of people who are being most affected by inadequate housing and homelessness, and what type of housing supply will actually meet their needs.
By comparison, CMHC’s 2022 report on housing supply challenges in Canada based its supply shortage estimate on housing demand – including demand from investors – rather than on housing need, and it only looked at homeownership costs, not affordability for renters. That report estimated 5.8 million new homes would be needed by 2031 to restore affordability to Canada’s housing system.
The report published today also used a human rights framework to estimate future housing supply need for the next decade. It projects that in addition to current needs, Canada will also need to add 9.6 million new homes overall in the next 10 years, with a third of this supply dedicated for very low to moderate income households.
Understanding Canada’s housing supply shortage using a human rights-lens must be the start of a broader plan to end inadequate housing across the country.
The report includes recommendations to improve national data on housing need, which must include incomes, maximum affordable price points, household sizes and data on the demographics of those who are most in need, such as single mothers, Indigenous and racialized people.
This is a complex problem that requires many solutions. While Canada needs more housing supply across the board, it must be the right type of supply that responds to those in greatest need.
“Canada needs a long-term plan to bridge the gap in its affordable housing supply. It must include significant, sustained government investment in non-market housing – such as cooperative, non-profit, and public housing. The ultimate goal is a sustainable housing system. The key ingredient to get there is a human rights approach that puts people first, and programs that respond to their needs.”
“Addressing Canada’s housing shortage means that we must look closely at the circumstances of people who are in need of housing, and what type of housing supply responds to their needs. Estimating Canada’s housing supply shortage using a human rights-lens must be the first step of a broader plan to end inadequate housing across the country.”
- Canada is currently missing 4.4 million homes that are affordable to people in housing need.
- The figures show a current deficit of 3 million homes for low and very low income households in housing need who can only afford less than $1,050 per month, and a further 1.4 million missing homes for moderate and median income households in housing need.
- The report projects that in addition to current needs, Canada will also need to add 9.6 million new homes overall in the next 10 years, with a third of this supply dedicated for very low to moderate income households.
The report’s recommendations include:
- A Rights-Based Approach: That any follow up report on Canadian housing supply needs must prioritize “progressively realizing the right to adequate housing” as the objective – and should do so by including analysis of income categories/ maximum affordable monthly housing costs, household sizes, and priority populations.
- Clear and Consistent Definitions: That the current CMHC definition of “affordable housing” - 30% of pre-tax or gross household income - be the standard for all federal government policies, programs and reports, rather than inconsistent affordability definitions based on “market rents and prices”.
- Better Evidence: That Statistics Canada work with key partners: the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Infrastructure Canada, Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE), researchers and advocates, to improve 2026 census data collection. Furthermore, that a unified new definition of “core housing” be developed that includes accessibility, tenure security, location, and cultural adequacy.
- Targets: That Infrastructure Canada provide a mandatory housing need assessment template for all provinces, territories, regions and municipalities that is replicable, comparable, and equity-focused; that the federal government mandate provincial/territorial targets based on area housing needs; and that grants and transfers to other levels of government rely on regular reporting to these targets.
- Policy and Program Implications of a Rights-based Approach: That, in revising the National Housing Strategy programs, the federal government focus on improving outcomes for those in greatest need, the 4.3 million very low- and low-income households, including those in need of ongoing housing-related support services. Furthermore, that the government set a 20% target for non-market housing for every province/territory, region and municipality in order to improve outcomes for those most in need.
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