Fifty years in the making of Ontario’s housing crisis – a timeline

May 26, 2022

Ontario is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, which has become increasingly widespread over the past five decades. Much of this crisis is a result of reduced government investment in affordable housing. Many lower income individuals have been bearing the brunt of the crisis, paying unaffordable rents and having little left to save for a rainy day or to pay down their debts. In the past two years, the affordable housing crisis has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic putting more pressure on lower income households to make ends meet.  

This timeline provides an overview of some of the key housing issues faced by communities across Ontario and how governments have responded to these issues over the past 50 years, including a detailed look at how the pandemic has exacerbated existing issues. It shows that, as investments in affordable housing have dwindled, housing insecurity has grown – especially among the most vulnerable communities. 

Given the complexity of the crisis, this timeline is not an exhaustive representation of the many challenges experienced by different communities, nor of all the ways that governments have responded in the face of these challenges. Instead, this timeline is meant to provide an overview of some of the key housing issues that have shaped housing outcomes for Ontarians.

1970s – The height of affordable housing investments 

  • During the 1970s, governments became increasingly involved in the housing sector. The Fraser Institute noted that housing policy was used as a vehicle for income redistribution, and governments began to acknowledge that housing is a fundamental right. In 1973, the then federal Minister of Urban Affairs stated that the government had “adopted the basic principle that [housing] is the fundamental right of Canadians, regardless of their economic circumstances, to enjoy adequate shelter at a reasonable cost.” The following year, the Ontario Ministry of Housing also acknowledged that adequate and affordable housing is a basic right for all. 
  • This decade saw the introduction of a number of important affordable housing policies and protections by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. These governments introduced subsidized housing for low-income households, financial assistance for renters and cash grants for homebuyers, and adopted rent control policies and amendments to the Landlord and Tenant Act. 

 1980s – The cutbacks begin 

  • The Government of Ontario began playing a leading role in managing and funding social housing in the province. Federal investments began to decline during this period. However, the majority of federal investments that remained were directed to subsidize housing for households in core housing need.   
  • Housing co-operatives – which saw a boom during the 1970s – also continued to grow during this period.  

1990s – Cutbacks become more drastic 

2000s – A devolution of responsibility 

  • The Government of Ontario devolved the responsibility for funding and administering existing social housing to municipal service managers, but retained responsibility for supportive housing.  
  • Municipal service managers introduced and funded their own housing programs which included rent supplements, housing allowances, and funding for new developments and capital repairs. 


2010s – The crisis deepens, but housing commitments begin to emerge 

  • As calls for a commitment to the right to housing grew in Canada, the federal government passed the National Housing Strategy Act in July 2019, which recognizes the right to housing (including affordable housing) as a human right in domestic legislation. The Act created mechanisms such as the Federal Housing Advocate and the National Housing Council to monitor the government’s implementation of the right to housing through its funding commitments.  
  • In April 2019, the Ontario government released its Community Housing Renewal Strategy to repair, sustain and grow the community housing sector.  
  • In December 2019, the City of Toronto became the first municipality to recognize housing as a human right in its updated Toronto Charter and its ten-year housing plan, HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan. 
  • In December 2019, the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario signed the Canada – Ontario Housing Benefit, a bilateral agreement to invest jointly to provide a portable housing benefit to support Ontarians in housing need.  

2020s – Crisis upon a crisis in the pandemic era 

March 2020 

  • The COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns began in March 2020. Advocates began to push for an eviction ban as renters lost their jobs and income. In response, on March 17, the Ontario government announced an eviction moratorium in the province which halted new eviction notices from being served – except in certain safety-related circumstances – and postponed the enforcement of scheduled evictions until further notice. 

April 2020

  • Data emerged showing that women were bearing the brunt of the impacts of the pandemic, as their job losses accounted for more than twice the number of losses experienced by men. Nearly half of jobs lost by women were part-time and low-paid roles.  
  • The federal government announced it would provide temporary rent relief for “small business tenants”, however it did not provide rent relief for residential tenants. 
  • Encampments began to emerge in cities across Ontario as many people experiencing homelessness chose to sleep outdoors due to fears of contracting the virus in overcrowded shelter spaces and social distancing requirements in shelters significantly reducing capacity. 

July 2020

  • The Ontario government passed Bill 184 which made several amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act that made evictions easier for landlords to obtain in some circumstances.  

August 2020

September 2020 


October 2020 

  • The federal government launched the Rapid Housing Initiative as part of the government’s National Housing Strategy (NHS) and pandemic response, an initiative that dedicated $1 billion to create up to 3,000 new affordable homes across the country for residents in the greatest need. 


December 2020 

  • As LTB hearings resumed, numerous complaints emerged of tenants facing technical issues connecting to their online hearings, or missing notices that their hearing was taking place. 



January 2021 

February 2021 

  • In consultation with over 120 housing advocates and people with lived experience of homelessness from across Canada, CERA and the National Right to Housing Network (NRHN) submitted a proposal to the federal government for a Residential Tenant Support Benefit to address the evictions and arrears crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  


September 2021 

December 2021 



January 2022 

February 2022

March 2022 

April 2022 

  • In response to Canada’s troubling record in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in long-term care homes, CERA delivered a submission to the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, outlining the ways that ongoing systemic issues in long-term care homes present barriers to realizing the right to adequate housing of older persons.
  • Housing was among the top areas of investment in the 2022 federal budget, with an expansion of the Rapid Housing Initiative as well as the introduction of the Housing Accelerator Fund. The budget fell short in responding to the urgent housing needs of those most impacted by the housing affordability and homelessness crisis.  
  • The 2022 federal budget signaled a renewed commitment to cooperative housing programs through the allocation of $500 million in funding and $1 billion in loans to a new Co-operative Housing Development Program
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