- Federal Housing Advocate releases report on systemic housing issues in Canada
The Office of the Federal Housing Advocate released their annual report to the federal Housing Minister, outlining findings from submissions they received from 2022 to 2023 through their online public submission process that allows people from across Canada to report directly to the Advocate about systemic issues related to inadequate housing and homelessness. The report outlines systemic housing issues related to affordability, rising rents, the difficulty people face in securing housing, the lack of suitable housing options and the long waitlists to access deeply affordable housing. Submissions were made by people living on lower incomes, people with disabilities, women and gender-diverse people, many of whom shared their experiences with facing increasing barriers and discrimination. The Federal Housing Advocate provides recommendations for governments to urgently address these systemic housing issues and work towards solutions that implement the right to housing for all.
- New report shows that rents are drastically rising beyond what minimum wage earners can afford
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) released a study that found there is a significant gap between rental prices and what minimum wage workers can afford across Canada. Even in the provinces with the highest minimum wage such as British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta, there is a significant gap between what minimum-wage workers earn and how much they have to pay for rent on average. The report shows that the gap is even greater for people in receipt of social assistance, many of whom are forced to live in the private market rentals due to the limited social housing options available and long waitlists. The report recommends immediate solutions such as raising the minimum wage while also financing, building and acquiring purpose-built and social housing. The report also urges governments to regulate the rental market with stronger tenant protections and rent control.
- Premiers meet in Winnipeg to discuss affordability, housing and healthcare
Premiers from across Canada gathered in mid-July for a three-day meeting in Winnipeg where affordability was one of the main topics of discussion. The Premier of British Columbia spoke about the need for affordable housing while the Premiers of Nunavut and Ontario called for more federal support for the construction of housing and addressing the housing crisis.
- Reports show that waiting times for subsidized housing depend on where people live
One of the most pressing issues at the premiers’ meeting in Winnipeg was the long waiting lists for subsidized housing across the country. Reports show that as of 2021, more than 227,000 households were on the waiting list for social housing across the provinces. The length of time people must wait depends on where they live, with households having to wait for up to fourteen years for a one-bedroom unit in Toronto. The limited availability of deeply affordable housing options requires urgent response by our federal and provincial governments to repair and build more social housing across Canada.
- Federal government provides funding for refugees seeking shelter in Toronto
Dozens of refugees were forced to camp out on the sidewalk outside a shelter intake office in Toronto after they were told that the shelters were at capacity, and that they should seek help from federal programs. The group spent weeks sleeping outside the office and being shuttled to a church north of the city to spend some nights. Following community mobilization and advocacy that resulted in public outcry, the federal government has announced that it will be providing an additional $210 million to fund interim housing for asylum seekers. About $97 million will be going to the City of Toronto. Toronto’s newly elected Mayor Olivia Chow welcomed the new federal funding but urged all levels of government to come together to find sustainable long-term funding solutions for cities in Canada that are welcoming refugees and asylum seekers who are in need of urgent housing supports.
- New Brunswick proposes inclusionary zoning regulation
The Government of New Brunswick is proposing a new inclusionary zoning (IZ) regulation that would allow local governments to adopt a bylaw that requires developers to provide a certain percentage of new multi-unit developments as affordable housing. The proposed regulation is a response to the challenges people are facing in finding affordable and adequate housing. The proposed regulation will establish the frameworks for municipal governments choosing to adopt an IZ bylaw. Submissions are open and encouraged on the draft regulation.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
- Research shows that homelessness in Newfoundland and Labrador is under reported
According to several experts, the homelessness rates in Newfoundland and Labrador are not being accurately tracked. Given the lack of a central intake and tracking system used by organizations serving the unhoused population, only a snapshot of the experiences of homelessness is being captured in the province. Only some service providers capture data and share this information while point-in-time counts do not account for people experiencing hidden homelessness who may stay with friends and couch surf. Experts point out that these limitations are creating an urban bias in the province that discount those experiencing homelessness in rural areas who may not have the same access to shelters or services as those living in large urban centers. By establishing coordinated access and data sharing, and expanding the ways in which the experiences of homelessness are captured, governments are able to better allocate resources and funding to adequately address and end homelessness.
- Changes to the Nova Scotia rent supplement program is causing concerns for housing sector workers
A recent change to a program that helps low-income Nova Scotians pay for rental housing has many housing advocates concerned. The Canada-Nova Scotia Target Housing Benefit is a joint provincial-federal program that provides monthly funding to qualifying low-income renters or homeowners. It has been used to provide a two-month subsidy that people experiencing homelessness could apply to while in search of a rental unit. The subsidy helped applicants to assess what rent they could afford, pay for a damage deposit or cover the cost of moving. But the province recently changed the rules which require rental applicants to secure a lease first before being eligible to receive the subsidy. Housing advocates are worried that the change will greatly impact those it is meant to support, who will now have a more difficult time securing rental units in a tight rental market.
- The City of Toronto hires its first Deputy Ombudsman (Housing)
Toronto’s first Deputy Ombudsman for Housing, Reema Patel, was announced this month, a new role established to investigate systemic housing issues and monitor the planning and delivery of Toronto’s housing services and programs. They will also engage with individuals and communities facing housing precarity and other adequacy challenges to advance fairness in housing access and program delivery.
- Quebec mayors call on the province to do more to curb unwarranted rent increases
The mayors of 14 Quebec municipalities have published an open letter demanding that the government establish a mandatory public rent registry to help ease the affordable housing crisis. They also denounced part of the Quebec government’s recently tabled housing legislation, Bill 31, which would prevent tenants from transferring their leases, which is one of the few tools that tenants could use to preserve affordable housing and rents. The open letter identifies the importance of a public rent registry which would allow all parties to learn about current rent prices, what a tenant paid before, and support dispute resolutions around excessive rent increases.
- Quebec receives $300 million from the federal government to build affordable housing amid a shortage
The federal government has committed to investing $300 million to build affordable housing in Quebec as the province deals with a housing shortage. As part of the Rapid Housing Initiative, the federal and provincial governments have agreed to build 1,600 social and affordable units with the new investment being dedicated to vulnerable groups, like women and children fleeing domestic violence, people with disabilities, and those experiencing homelessness. After moving day on July 1, many families are still looking for a place to live in the province. Housing group FRAPRU said that 500 families across Quebec did not have a lease after July 1, and that this number is likely much higher. Although FRAPRU welcomes the investment, they are calling for 10,000 units to be built for five consecutive years in Quebec to address the housing shortage.
- The Government of Manitoba launches new initiatives to address homelessness
The province has approved an investment of $25 million into five initiatives to modernize the government’s emergency response and shelter system, and provide more supportive and affordable housing. The funds will be used to allow better access to shelters, increase co-ordination within provincial departments and improve co-operation among all levels of government and community organizations. The funding will be divided between operating shelters, developing new community-based social housing units through rent supplement agreements, expanding existing supports and developing new Housing First teams, developing 212 new units, and supplementing interest free loans to 13 non-profit and co-operative organizations.