Housing policy news: July 2022

July 29, 2022


  • Canada needs to build more affordable housing for newcomers 
    With a low national birth rate and high labour demand, immigration is more important than ever to support growth in Canada’s economy. However, the findings of an SSHRC-funded study indicate that newcomers to Canada are struggling to find places to live. Currently, the combination of modest population growth, housing financialization and increased housing demand is rapidly driving up prices, a lethal combination for newcomers. Priced out of the ownership market, many are left renting units that are overcrowded and inadequate. The research calls for immediate action across levels of government to increase housing supply and affordability, including units that can accommodate larger families.   
  • More Canadians are living with roommates, census shows 
    The latest round of census data from Statistics Canada shows that roommate households have grown faster than any other housing arrangement since 2001, particularly among those ages 20 to 34. The data also indicates that while there are fewer one-family households, there are more multi-generational households than before. Overall, the data shows a changing picture of young adulthood in Canada, something Statistics Canada connects with rising housing costs. While a record 4.4 million people lived alone in 2021, this trend is least prevalent in Ontario, a province with above average housing costs and a proliferation of young adults living with their parents. See CERA’s analysis of the new census data.


  • N.L.’s housing crunch is leaving renters ‘desperately’ looking for a place to live 
    A lack of availability and affordability are two problems facing prospective renters, with the rising cost of living taking larger chunks from people’s pay cheques. As a result, St. John’s is seeing a rise in families experiencing homelessness, something that has historically not been an issue. As a result, there are no agencies in the city that specifically deal with family homelessness. Advocates worry that the situation may get worse due to a dramatic decrease in the province’s rental vacancy rate since 2020.  


  • More than 250 N.B. public housing units sit empty on average each month, despite wait list 
    Despite increasing need, affordable housing units across New Brunswick are sitting empty. In June 2022, the province had 227 vacant public housing units, nearly six per cent of its total inventory. Another 133 units were vacant under the rent supplement program, where private landlords receive money to subsidize tenants’ rent based on household income. At the same time, the province’s wait list for affordable housing has grown from about 5,000 households at the end of 2019 to 8,194 households. The reason for the high vacancy rates may be in part due to gaps in funding to undertake maintenance and repairs of vacant units. 


  • Nova Scotia says it won’t try to justify housing discrimination against people with disabilities 
    Following a ruling from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission that the provincial government’s failure to offer “meaningful” access to housing for people with disabilities amounted to a violation of their basic rights, the government has committed to negotiating a remedy. Advocates welcome this move after concerns that the government might refer to Section 6 of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act to exempt itself from the ruling. Hearings before the human rights board of inquiry to establish remedies for this case are scheduled to begin in October 2022. 


  • Ontario planning to bring in ‘strong mayor’ system for Toronto and Ottawa 
    Premier Doug Ford is planning to embolden the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa with broader U.S. style powers while diminishing the sway of city councillors. The province is expected to table the legislation during a summer session of the legislature. The provincial government argues that expanded mayoral power could help address the housing shortage in major cities and get development approved more quickly. While Toronto’s Mayor John Tory has come out in support of the move, housing advocates have voiced skepticism if expanded mayoral powers will translate into a more effective response to the housing affordability crisis and concern over how this could impact local democracy.    
  • Toronto is looking to all levels of government to address rising rents and curb renovictions 
    Toronto’s top housing official has called on the province to tie rent control rules to residential units, rather than the tenants who inhabit them — arguing the change could help curb the financial incentive for landlords to evict long-term renters. Paired with initiatives undertaken at the municipal level, these changes would increase security of tenure by disincentivizing renovictions and other predatory practices by landlords. Earlier this month, Toronto City Council voted in favor of a Renoviction Policy to guide the development of a new by-law to preserve affordable and mid-range rental housing in the city and deter renovictions. CERA recommended that, while the policy directions are promising, further details are needed to understand the full application and impact of the City’s approach.  This month, CERA also provided recommendations on Council’s proposal on Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods and its recent Land Needs Assessment.  


  • Winnipeg needs much more affordable housing to combat homelessness: advocates 
    Advocates for Winnipeg’s residents who are experiencing homelessness say that without more efforts to create and offer low-income and affordable housing in the city, more people will experience homelessness. Two years after releasing their own strategy to combat and understand homelessness, End Homelessness Winnipeg (EHW) says that they continue to see high numbers of people in the city living on the streets and seeking emergency shelter. While emergency shelters offer temporary support, they do not address the core issue: the number of people in need of affordable housing in Winnipeg far outstrips what is available. More affordable housing is urgently needed to meet demand, including low-income, low-barrier, Indigenous-led housing options. 


  • City Mayors calling for a review of the province’s social housing program 
    Mayors from Saskatchewan’s cities are calling for a review of the province’s social housing program, specifically its eligibility criteria, as thousands of affordable housing units sit vacant. The City Mayors’ Caucus released a media announcement calling on the Provincial government to address the chronic gap between community needs and available housing supply.  



  • Students look for accommodation with University of Calgary residences already full 
    With university residences full and limited housing availability in the city, the University of Calgary Students Union is looking for alternative housing options for students. The president of the Students Union is urging Calgarians to consider renting a room to a student this fall. “The current rental market is tight and what’s available often costs more than what students can afford: this is an access and affordability issue.”


  • Indigenous Housing Providers in BC are redefining options for supportive housing, with notable results  
    Research funded by CMHC and SSHRC has explored the transformative impact of culturally appropriate supportive housing for Indigenous people transitioning out of homelessness. The Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness (ACEH) opened British Columbia’s first Culturally Supportive Housing in 2020. Its Dual Model of Housing Care (DMHC) provides both culturally supportive housing and decolonized harm reduction. Going beyond housing provision, they provide pathways to healing rooted in culture, land-based programming and family reunification. The model aims to address some of the systemic barriers Indigenous people face when accessing supportive housing, providing a more culturally appropriate pathway to healing and housing stability.   
  • Vancouver City Council approves land-use strategy for a more “equitable, livable, affordable and resilient” city 
    For the first time in the city’s history, Vancouver has developed a “comprehensive direction” for future growth that is coordinated with other levels of government. The approved Vancouver Plan introduces a new way for the city to grow by allowing more housing options across all neighbourhoods, while restoring ecosystems and building more transit-oriented communities. It commits to significantly boost the supply of social and supportive housing and support Indigenous-led housing and wellness projects. In its submission, CERA recommended that Council use the Plan to expand robust renter protections across the city, facilitate non-profit and social housing development, and open all neighbourhoods to diverse housing options, including low rise apartments. These recommendations have been taken up by Council in the adopted Plan.     


  • It’s time for Indigenous-led solutions to public housing in the North 
    Advocates argue that Indigenous peoples should have more authority to make decisions when it comes to housing in their communities, in line with Canada’s promises of Truth and Reconciliation, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and other commitments. Nowhere is this more evident than in the north, where public housing does not meet community needs. Under the current system, if northerners move south in pursuit of higher education – something they are frequently forced to do with limited educational opportunities locally – they are removed from public housing waitlists and will not have access to affordable housing upon return. Public housing policies also lack cultural sensitivity by banning pets and prohibiting home based businesses, while the system fails to account for Indigenous cultural practices around multi-generational housing, leading to frequent overcrowding. The solution is a greater control by Indigenous Communities of the public housing system and culturally appropriate service provision.  
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