Housing policy news: March 2023

March 31, 2023

The latest developments in housing policy from across Canada:


  • The 2023 federal budget includes little to address the housing crisis 

    The federal government released its 2023 budget, which included $4 billion over seven years, beginning in 2024-2025, to implement an Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy, co-developed with Indigenous partners. The long-awaited strategy is welcome news, although it is not sufficient to meet the need recommended by Indigenous communities. The federal budget lacked any other housing affordability measures for renters to solve the housing affordability and adequacy issues faced by many across Canada. The budget includes a reallocation of funding from the affordable housing repair stream of the National Housing Co-Investment Fund to a new construction stream but does not boost funding for new social and affordable housing, nor does it increase funding for rental supports. Advocates had called for the introduction of a Canada Homelessness Prevention and Housing Benefit to expand the existing Canada Housing Benefit and prevent people from losing their homes. The Federal Housing Advocate noted that the budget fails to address the major systemic issues that are preventing the realization of the human right to housing in Canada, including action on homelessness and the financialization of housing.



  • Despite new funding, the provincial budget fails to address the housing crisis

    The Nova Scotia government introduced a budget which provides $21.6 million for rent subsidies for 1,000 low-income tenants and $8.2 million for shelters. Local housing advocates pointed out that rent supplements are a useful tool but the lack of provincial investment in social housing will compound the lack of housing which tenants can afford. The budget included funding to repair existing social housing but not to construct or fund any new rent-geared-to-income housing in the province.

  • The provincial government extends the interim rent cap to the end of 2025

    On April 11, the Nova Scotia government’s legislation to extend the current interim rent cap to the end of 2025 passed into law. The rent cap will also be increased from 2% to 5% annually, beginning in January 2024.The government stated that this amount was chosen to allow landlords to catch up to inflation, while avoiding any large rent increases for tenants. The provincial government first introduced the interim rent cap as a temporary measure in November 2020, in response to a housing affordability crisis that has escalated in recent years due to rising housing costs, the lack of affordable housing options for low-income households, and the lack of construction of rental housing which has not kept up with population growth. The rent cap was extended once before in February 2022. While advocates are relieved to hear that the rent cap will be extended again, they are concerned that the cap was increased to 5%, with some, like ACORN, calling for a permanent rent cap of 2%. Advocates are also concerned that the new legislation does not address a remaining loophole that allows landlords to misuse fixed term leases to get around the rent cap. Specifically, landlords can decide not to renew a fixed-term lease in order to rent a unit to a new tenant at an increased rent that is above the cap. Advocates are calling for provisions around fixed-term leases to be changed to close this loophole. Both the NDP and Liberal Parties have also proposed bills to address the issue of fixed-term leases. 


  • Charlottetown introduces short-term rental regulations  

    Charlottetown City Council passed a licensing by-law for short-term rentals, which reflects the calls of housing advocates to curb the conversion of rental housing into units for short-term stays through platforms such as Airbnb. Advocates noted that allowing investors to buy rental units and convert them to short-term rentals severely reduced the availability of housing in the city. The by-law will restrict short-term rentals to the owner’s primary residence, in most cases disallowing multiple properties to be rented out by one owner. The by-law came into effect at the end of March 2023.  



  • Ontario’s 2023 budget adds funds for homelessness prevention, although the investment is not enough  

    The Ontario government released its 2023 budget in March, which included several housing-related measures. The budget promised a $202 million annual investment in homelessness prevention and Indigenous supportive housing, as well as a three-year $24 million commitment to fund the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) to address the backlog of cases before the Board. The homelessness prevention investment was welcome news but advocates were concerned that rather than represent an improvement, the funding would merely offset losses caused by development charge changes under the More Homes Built Faster Act. Tenant advocates were also concerned that funding for the LTB would only hasten economic evictions. In our budget submission, we had called for enhanced funding for affordable housing construction and preservation of existing affordable housing, as well as housing benefits to help renters struggling to make ends meet. The budget failed to include such measures.

  • Ottawa’s 2023 budget includes the sale of city land to fund affordable housing 

    Ottawa City Council unanimously passed their first budget under Mayor Mark Sutcliffe at the beginning of March. Housing advocates, including the Right to Housing Coalition Ottawa, had called for the City to double the funding set aside for affordable housing to $30 million to address inflation-driven construction costs and increased need in the community. While City Council did not increase the housing budget, a successful motion by Councillor Laine Johnson increased the budget amount of surplus city land to be sold from $1 million to $2.5 million, with the extra revenue to be directed to affordable housing.
  • Toronto City Council establishes a Housing Commissioner to examine systemic housing issues   

    Following years of advocacy from groups like Right to Housing Toronto (R2HTO), Toronto City Council supported the creation of a Housing Rights Advisory Committee, and authorized Ombudsman Toronto to set up a Deputy Ombudsman, Housing that would look into systemic housing issues. The new independent Deputy Housing Commissioner would be able to investigate systemic housing issues in the City’s housing policies and services with an equity and rights-based focus. The Commissioner’s office is fully funded and will engage in education and outreach, acting as a resource for City staff and officials in addition to evaluating City housing and homelessness plans. The Housing Rights Advisory Committee will be composed of 11 members of the public (plus one City Councillor) with policy and lived expertise in housing and human rights and should reflect the diversity of Torontonians.



  • Manitoba announces a homelessness strategy and new funding for housing 

    The Manitoba government announced its long-awaited homelessness strategy, A Place for Everyone, which aims to improve services, increase coordination between departments and with other levels of government, and help people transition out of homelessness by finding and retaining housing. The strategy includes $58 million in new funding which will go towards shelters and programs for people experiencing homelessness, 300 new housing units and funding for another 400 units of rent-geared-to-income rent supplements, repair and maintenance of existing social housing, and programs to prevent youth leaving care from experiencing homelessness. While the new funding was welcomed by local advocates, they noted that a short-term commitment to new housing is unable to adequately address the severe loss of affordable units in Manitoba that has occurred in recent years, including the loss of hundreds of social housing units. 


  • Saskatchewan’s 2023 budget increases the income support benefit, but it remains insufficient to meet the need 

    Saskatchewan introduced increases to assistance programs in the provincial budget, including a $17 million increase to the Saskatchewan Assured Income Disability (SAID) program, $6.4 million in living income benefits, $14.3 million for the Saskatchewan Income Support program – which includes the Adult Basic Benefit, Shelter Benefit, and Alternative Heating Benefit – and the Senior’s Income Plan. These increases amount to only $30 more for most recipients. Saskatchewan anti-poverty and disability rights advocates criticized the increase, pointing out that the original rates were already insufficient to cover basic needs, which is a problem that has only become more pronounced with the rising cost of living.  


  • Northwest Territories MLAs pass a motion calling for a rent increase guideline

    Nine of the 19 Northwest Territories Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) voted in favour of a motion by Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby to amend the Territory’s Residential Tenancies Act to limit rent increases to no more than the five-year average of the Canada Consumer Price Index. Cabinet MLAs abstained from the vote. The government has 120 days to respond to the motion, but the upcoming territorial election will likely prevent any action on the motion. If the next government introduces a rent increase cap, it will join a small number of provinces in Canada that have a rent guideline. The majority of provinces and territories limit how often landlords can raise the rent but do not set limits on the amount of rent increases, putting the stability of tenants’ housing at risk. 


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