Housing policy news: January 2023

January 31, 2023

The latest developments in housing policy from across Canada:


  • New report finds that rental vacancy rates fall to two-decade low, while rents hit a new high, CMHC report finds

    The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) released its annual Rental Market Report for 2022. The report shows a decline in vacancy rates across the country, reaching a 20-year low. Vacancy rates dropped in a majority of census metropolitan areas, including Toronto, which saw its vacancy rate decline from 4.4% to 1.7% – one of the largest changes seen in the country. At the same time, rents for two-bedroom, purpose-built apartments saw an average increase of 5.6% across the country, to a national average of $1,258 per month. Vancouver and Toronto boasted the highest average rents, at $2,002 and $1,779 for such units, respectively. CMHC attributed the broad tightening of the rental market to increased immigration, the return to on-campus learning for post-secondary students and higher mortgage rates, with the latter driving would-be buyers into the rental market. However, analysis of the rapid loss of affordable rental housing was missing from the list of factors. For the first time, CMHC provided data on rent increases for units that turned over to new tenants, an important piece of data that can help decision-makers better understand the implications of vacancy decontrol laws. Those units saw an 18.2% increase in rent, more than six times the increase for units that did not turn over.
  • Affordability crisis could be fixed by addressing social housing shortage, Scotiabank says

    A new report from Scotiabank is calling on governments in Canada to double the country’s stock of social housing – deeply affordable housing where rent is set at 30% of household income. Currently, Canada is an outlier amongst OECD countries: social housing makes up about 3.5% of Canada’s housing stock, as compared to the OECD average of 7%. At the same time, housing affordability continues to deteriorate across the country, with asking market rents rising between 12-25% over 2021-2022. Under the National Housing Strategy, federal and provincial governments have made significant investments in portable housing benefits to increase affordability for lower-income renters. However, the report suggests that, with an ever-growing gap between incomes and rents, these subsidy amounts will continue to rise, increasing the financial burden on governments. In this context, the report argues that governments should focus on unlocking additional housing supply across the housing spectrum, with a focus on social housing to meet the acute housing needs of those living on lower incomes.
  • National organization calls on Ottawa to combat homelessness through a multi-billion dollar housing benefit 

    The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) has called on the federal government to create a Homelessness Prevention Housing Benefit, which the group argues would be instrumental in bringing people out of homelessness and preventing more from becoming unhoused. It would augment the existing Canadian Housing Benefit, a portable housing benefit that was launched in 2020 as part of the National Housing Strategy and is administered in partnership with provinces and territories. CAEH has proposed that with an investment of $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion per year, the Homelessness Prevention Housing Benefit would aid an estimated 50,000 people experiencing chronic homelessness and an additional 200,000 to 385,000 at risk of loosing their homes through monthly rent supplements. While the Ministry of Housing has responded by reiterating the government’s commitment to addressing housing need and homelessness through investments under the National Housing Strategy, evidence from the Federal Housing Advocate suggests that the strategy is doing little to achieve these ambitious goals.  



  • Halifax moves ahead with establishing a rental property registry

    Halifax Regional Municipality has taken an important step in creating a rental property registry, which will require property owners to provide contact information, a description of their rental property, proof of insurance and a maintenance plan. A bylaw providing a framework for the registry passed first reading at a Council meeting on January 24th. It marks a significant victory for renter advocates led by Halifax ACORN members, who have been advocating for the establishment of landlord licensing for several years. Once established, the registry will apply to all rental units within the municipality, increasing data on the available rental stock and strengthening oversight of safety and maintenance for smaller rental buildings. A second bylaw clarifying landlords’ responsibilities pertaining to rental standards also passed first reading at the Council meeting on January 24th.



  • Immigrants face discrimination and housing unaffordability in Toronto’s rental market

    A study published by the Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR) in November 2022 found that racialized newcomers are more likely to face discrimination when trying to access rental housing in Toronto. The study empirically supports incidents of discrimination reported by some racialized immigrants in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Bahar Shadpour, CCHR’s Director of Policy and Communications, reflected that the report helps put numbers to what many in the housing sector have been hearing. The findings come at a time when over 60% of Ontarians are living in housing that is unaffordable, with renters spending 11.2% more than homeowners on housing costs. At the same time, the province is expecting a significant increase in the number of newcomers, as compared to recent years. Considering these two trends, analysts are voicing concern that we may see an increase in predatory practices from some landlords taking advantage of low vacancy rates and newcomers with little experience in the Canadian housing market. This could create a situation where newcomers are accepting unfair or exploitative conditions, with others at risk of experiencing homelessness and accessing emergency shelters.

    Also this month, Statistics Canada’s Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics released indicators on the social inclusion of racialized groups, using data from 2016 and 2021 censuses. The data indicates that racialized immigrants are more likely to live in housing that is unaffordable or otherwise inadequate, when compared to their non-immigrant counterparts.

  • Ontario court rules encampments can stay if there’s a shortage of shelter beds

    The Ontario Superior Court of Justice had denied the Regional Municipality of Waterloo’s request to remove a homeless encampment, in a potentially precedent setting case. The ruling is in line with case law from British Columbia, which has found that it is an infringement on Charter rights to deny someone the ability to find shelter outside when there is not adequate or accessible space for them inside (within the shelter system). The Court found that, as the number of homeless persons exceeds the number of shelter beds in the City of Kitchener, the Region could not use its bylaws to prevent people from setting up temporary shelters on municipal land. The decision further articulates how the court interprets ‘accessibility’ and ‘availability’ of beds within the shelter system. Supporters of the decision indicate that the precedent set by this case will be a powerful tool for those advocating on behalf of encampment residents in Ontario and across the country.  
  • Toronto’s Mayor calls for $2 billion investment in housing

    The City of Toronto tabled its 2023-24 municipal budget in early January, including a projected $2 billion investment in housing initiatives and improvements to key services. While the City plans to contribute $616 million of this amount, it is looking to higher levels of government to provide the remaining funding. Mayor John Tory has suggested that the proposed funding would improve and protect housing services and support key housing initiatives to address affordability and supply concerns. CCHR provided a written submission to the City’s Budget Committee on the budget, recognizing important investments in the City’s eviction prevention program, the legalization of multi-tenant housing, and its program to protect at-risk affordable rental housing and the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition Program, amongst other initiatives. Other municipalities and the Province of Ontario will be releasing their capital and operational budgets in early February.
  • Hamilton approves Vacant Homes Tax and Short-Term Rentals bylaw to protect the city’s housing supply

    On January 25th, the City of Hamilton adopted two bylaws aimed at increasing housing supply, as part of their efforts to address the housing affordability crisis. The newly adopted Vacant Home Tax is projected to discourage speculation and incentivize property owners to shift vacant units to the ownership or rental market. It will also provide the City with an additional revenue stream. Council also approved a bylaw to regulate short-term rental properties such as those on Airbnb. Under the bylaw, property owners are required to obtain a business licence for short term rentals, which are restricted to their primary residence and rentals are capped at 28 consecutive nights. The bylaws come at a time when Hamilton is facing a housing supply crunch.



  • The Province of British Columbia is moving forward with its plans to tackle its housing affordability crisis 

    Following the establishment of the province’s first standalone housing ministry in November 2022, Minister of Housing, Ravi Kahlon began meeting with BC mayors in January to discuss implementation of the province’s new Housing Supply Act. The Act will require the province to work with municipalities facing the highest housing needs to set housing targets and fast track development. In January, the province also announced two major housing programs aimed at further streamlining new construction and protecting existing affordable housing supply. The $500 million Rental Protection Fund will provide one-time capital grants to non-profit housing providers to purchase affordable rental buildings or co-operatives that have been put on the market for resale. The fund will be managed by an external body made up of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, the Cooperative Housing Federation of BC, and the Aboriginal Housing Management Association. The Permitting Strategy for Housing aims to expedite the construction of new housing through a streamlined provincial permitting process. The province has committed to establish a “one-stop-shop” for permits, which will prioritize urgently needed and Indigenous-led housing projects in the immediate term. These announcements follow a report from BC Housing showing that 14,546 purpose-built rentals were registered this year, the largest amount since 2002.


  • No landlords, more community — why these residents say Calgary needs more housing co-ops

    Faced with rising market rents and increasing affordability challenges, some renters in Calgary are turning to co-operative housing as a more affordable alternative. With demand growing, Calgarians are facing long waitlists for the province’s relatively limited supply of co-operative housing. Co-operative housing providers in the city are looking to recent investments by the federal government to increase the supply of this type of housing. They argue that co-operative housing – where members co-own and manage the housing – provides residents with both increased affordability and security of tenure. Some Calgarians are also looking at investing in cohousing-style co-operative housing as another alternative to traditional forms of tenure in the city.



  • Renters struggle to find affordable housing in the North

    A report released by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) in December 2022 highlights concerning trends in housing supply and affordability across the territories. While housing has long been a challenge for northern residents, the report suggests that an aging population, urbanization and a strong labour market are putting significant pressures on the housing supply in cities like Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit. A growing population and improving labour market coupled with a relatively stagnant housing supply has led to increasing rents and vacancy rates dipping below 1% across cities. Notably, in Nunavut, the rate of households living in core housing need is three times above the Canadian average. Over one in three households in the territory is living in housing that is unaffordable, overcrowded or inadequate. Housing advocates are working to support northern residents to develop tenants’ associations, with the aim of strengthening advocacy efforts and holding landlords and social housing providers accountable.


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