Housing policy news: February 2024

March 6, 2024

The latest developments in housing policy from across Canada:


  • Federal housing advocate calls for human rights-based approach to encampments 

    As more and more cities across Canada are proceeding with encampment clearings, the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate released a report with a formal review of encampments conducted last year. Close to 25 per cent of people experiencing homelessness live in encampments, in precarious, life-threatening situations. The report states that evictions in encampments constitute a violation of human rights. It also recognizes that encampments result from a failure of Canadian governments to uphold the right to adequate housing, and calls on the federal government to establish a National Encampment Response Plan by the end of August 2024. The plan should build on the recommendations from the report, including increasing engagement with encampment residents, strengthening renter protections, and investing in non-market housing. Most importantly, the report calls for a coordinated response to homelessness and to enact legislation that recognizes housing as a human right. 

  • Federal government announces new affordability measures for rent and groceries

    On February 6, Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland announced new government funding of $199 million to support renters facing excessive rent increases and those at risk of homelessness. Half of this funding is a top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit and the other half is dedicated to increasing shelter spaces and services through the Reaching Home program. Recognizing the severity of the housing crisis and the urgent need for financial supports for low-income renters, other ministries have promised additional funding to address the immediate needs of low-income renters. The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marc Miller, committed an additional $362 million to the Interim Housing Assistance Program for temporary accommodation for refugees and asylum claimants.  



  • Fredericton city council permits housing in some commercial zones

    On February 12, Councillors in Fredericton unanimously voted to amend the city’s zoning bylaw to create “workforce housing” on commercial properties in two areas of the city. The new bylaw is part of the City’s affordable housing strategy and aims to create more walkable neighborhoods where residents can live closer to their workplace. The bylaw requires bike parking and a minimum of 20 per cent of bachelor and one-bedroom apartments in workforce housing developments. While no affordability requirements are stipulated, the city hopes to achieve affordability in these developments by promoting smaller housing units, as the new bylaw sets out maximum instead of minimum floor areas for workforce housing.



  • Olivia Chow is spending millions on Toronto renters in her budget 

    On February 14, the City of Toronto unveiled its 2024 budget. The budget includes several important investments in affordable housing, with $126 million in funding distributed across several of the City’s affordable housing and shelter programs. The Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition program (MURA) will receive $100 million over the next three years, alongside increased investments in the Eviction Prevention in the Community Program (EPIC), Toronto Tenant Support Program (TTSP), Toronto Rent Bank, and RentSafeTO. Emergency shelter responses will also benefit from additional funding, while the multi-residential property tax rate has been adjusted downwards to prevent landlords from applying for above-guideline rent increases. Right to Housing Toronto (R2HTO) commended the new budget, while proposing measures to further explore protections against renovictions, notably those contained in the new Multi-Tenant Housing (MTH) framework.   

  • Housing advocates rally at MPPs offices to demand rent reform

    Advocates from Ontario ACORN wrote letters to nine MPPs and held protests in front of their offices to demand provincial rent regulation reform. Currently, the province places a limit on yearly rent increases for sitting renters in Ontario, but vacated units and those first occupied as a rental unit after November 15, 2018 are exempt from rent increase limits. Landlords can also raise rent prices beyond the limit by applying for above-guideline increases (AGIs) to offset major repair costs. ACORN says it wants to see these loopholes closed by requiring all housing units, newly built or vacant, to be subject to rent increase limits and advocates are calling for a freeze on AGIs. 


  • Quebec adopts controversial housing bill restricting lease transfers 

    After several months of public consultations and deliberations, Quebec’s controversial Bill 31 was finally passed into law on February 21. Since it was tabled in June 2023, the bill has been the subject of several protests calling for its withdrawal and the resignation of the Housing Minister, France-Elaine Duranceau. While the new law provides some additional protections for renters, such as increasing the level of compensation they receive after an eviction, it also removes important measures that have historically allowed rents to remain affordable. One such measure is the ability of renters to transfer their lease, which has been found to prevent landlords from evading rent regulations and reduce discrimination in housing.



British Columbia

  • B.C. launches new agency to build middle-income rental housing more quickly 

    Under the stewardship of BC Housing, the provincial government launched a new housing program, BC Builds, to create more rental housing for middle-income households earning between $84,000 and $190,000 annually. The program will use underutilized land and properties from the public and non-profit sectors to provide at least 20 per cent of units at 20 per cent below market rents. The federal government committed $2 billion for this program, on top of the $950 million earmarked by the province.  



  • Housing should be a fundamental right in N.W.T., MLAs say 

    On February 26, the MLA for Dehcho brought forward a motion to affirm housing as a human right, in line with Canada’s human rights obligations. The motion proposes to enshrine housing as a human right in the Housing Northwest Territories Act, which would include creating a Housing Forum to advise the Minister, establishing a Territorial Housing Advocate to review and evaluate outcomes of territorial legislation and programs, and working with Indigenous governments to implement culturally appropriate housing solutions. While the Cabinet abstained from the vote, all regular MLAs voted in favour of the motion, which should be further studied by the Standing Committee on Social Development in the coming months.  
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