Corporate investment in housing linked to unaffordable rents, evictions, and long-term care deaths: study
September 8, 2022 – Ottawa, Ontario – Office of the Federal Housing Advocate
Today, the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate released a series of research reports that explore the growing trend of financial firms using housing as commodity to grow wealth for their investors.
Private equity firms, pension funds, and real estate investment trusts (REITs) are increasingly acquiring, operating, and developing housing as an investment strategy, with the aim of maximizing returns for shareholders.
This phenomenon, known as the financialization of housing, is not only driving house prices out of reach for middle-class families – it is also denying members of disadvantaged groups their fundamental human rights.
The reports confirm this trend is having the greatest impact on disadvantaged groups, such as vulnerable seniors, low-income tenants, people with disabilities, members of Black communities, recent immigrants and refugees, and lone-parent families.
Financialization is contributing to unaffordable rent increases, worsening conditions, and a rise in evictions – often due to renovations or rebuilding with the goal of charging higher rents. There is also a well-documented connection between financialization and increased morbidity and mortality in long-term care facilities.
This in-depth look at one of the drivers of Canada’s housing crisis will help the Advocate and decision-makers develop measures to take action on financialization.
“I am very concerned about this trend. The financialization of housing is a pressing human rights issue. All people in Canada have a human right to housing that is affordable, dignified, secure, and safe.”
- The research estimates that about one-third of all seniors’ housing in Canada has been financialized, along with 20-30 percent of purpose-built rental buildings.
- One tenant quoted in the report by ACORN described the aftermath when her family was demovicted from Ottawa’s Heron Gate neighbourhood: “I have a lot of pain because of what happened. I was depressed, my kids were depressed - they had to change schools, they’re being bullied … It was completely disruptive. I came to Canada because I wanted a better life, but things have been so tough.” Heron Gate tenants have since launched a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, alleging racial discrimination.
- The reports – by University of Waterloo professor Martine August, Toronto Metropolitan University professor Nemoy Lewis, researcher Jackie Brown, lawyer Manuel Gabarre de Sus, and tenant union ACORN Canada – provide an overview of the global rise of financialization, its role in the Canadian housing market, and the resulting impacts on tenants and seniors.
- The Federal Housing Advocate is an independent, nonpartisan watchdog, empowered to drive meaningful action to address inadequate housing and homelessness in Canada. The Office of the Federal Housing Advocate, housed at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, supports the Advocate in carrying out their mandate. Together, we promote and protect the human right to housing in Canada, including the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing.
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University of Waterloo
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