Housing policy news: May 2024

May 31, 2024

The latest developments in housing policy from across Canada:
Housing Policy News - May 2024


  • The Review Panel on the Financialization of Purpose-Built Rental Housing Submits Report to the Minister of Housing 

    On May 29, the National Housing Council’s Review Panel on the Financialization of Purpose-Built Rental Housing released a new report. The report provides solutions to advance the right to housing in Canada, and was informed by extensive engagement with lived experts, people from historically marginalized communities, and housing and human rights experts. The review panel examined linkages between financialization, housing affordability, and renters’ rights. The report shows that financialized housing leads to increased rents, evictions and displacement of lower income communities, and poor building maintenance, among other negative impacts. The review panel issued five key recommendations to the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, who has 120 days to respond. These recommendations reflect those issued in CCHR’s submission to the Review Panel, and include increasing investments in non-market housing supply, protecting the existing affordable supply, and strengthening renter supports and protections. While these recommendations can be effective, it is disappointing that they did not include measures to address the tax incentives and loopholes that financialized landlords continue to benefit from, which drive them to use tactics that harm renters in order to increase their profits.

  • Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) released a series of new progress reports

    CMHC’s 2023 Annual Report shows that the Crown agency surpassed its 2023 housing targets despite difficult economic conditions. However, less housing was built last year compared to previous years, as rising interest rates and a lack of skilled labor continue to impede Canada’s goal of creating 3.5 million new homes by 2030. CMHC’s 2024 Housing Market Outlook forecasts a slow economic rebound, with even fewer housing starts in the coming year and increased demand for rental housing. A CMHC survey on the state of Canada’s rental housing shows that despite some improvements in accessibility, rents have increased by 17 per cent nationally since 2019, while the existing rental stock is deteriorating across the board.

  • New report shows increased federal spending on homelessness has had little impact

    The Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer commissioned a report on federal spending on homelessness, revealing that funding has increased by 374 per cent over the last 10 years, but failed to meaningfully reduce homelessness. While the report estimates that interventions funded by the main federal homelessness program, Reaching Home, have prevented 6,000 people from becoming homeless, the proportion of people experiencing chronic homelessness has increased by 38 per cent since 2018. The federal government would need to invest seven times its current spending to meet its goal of reducing chronic homelessness by half.

  • Canada recognizes housing as a human right. Few provinces have followed suit.

    Following the release of the Federal Housing Advocate’s report on homeless encampments urging all provinces to adopt legislation upholding housing as a human right, the Canadian Press asked each province about their commitments to the right to housing. Most provinces remained vague and pointed to measures underway to address the housing crisis in their jurisdictions. Quebec’s Premier openly rejected housing as a fundamental human right, instead calling it “essential.” In contrast, P.E.I. referred to the recognition of housing as a human right under its Residential Tenancy Act, while Manitoba aligned with Canada’s rights-based approach to housing. The Federal Housing Advocate questioned the provinces’ understanding of a rights-based approach, and stressed the need for meaningful engagement and respecting people’s dignity. CCHR’s Director of Policy and Law Reform said that recognizing housing as a human right requires legislative action, noting that P.E.I.’s legislation lacks enforcement measures. We encourage provinces to amend their tenancy rules so that evictions are used only as a last resort.


Newfoundland and Labrador

  • No more encampment evictions, says Federal Housing Advocate

    Federal Housing Advocate Marie-Josée Houle has voiced her disagreement with the provincial government’s plan to evict residents of a St. John’s encampment. Last month, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure posted signs around Tent City that effectively criminalized unhoused people. Soon thereafter, the same department hired private contractors to dismantle the encampment. Houle reminded the government that enforcement measures to clear encampments should be compliant with human rights standards and that the government should provide alternative measures to house encampment residents following meaningful engagement. While the government argued that alternative shelter options are available, residents who have transitioned through the city’s shelters reported that living conditions were inadequate and unsafe and that Tent City had provided a safer option for them.


  • Large Halifax landlords report double-digit operating income growth in first quarter of 2024

    Two large rental property corporations in Halifax have reported income increases of 12 to 14 per cent over the first quarter of 2024. Both companies attribute the increased revenue to higher rents and lower utility costs in their buildings. Compared to last year, rents in these buildings have increased by 5.7 to 7.2 per cent, above the provincial rent cap of five per cent. In the absence of vacancy control, average rents in Halifax have increased beyond provincial guidelines when new renters move into a unit, or when an existing renter signs a new lease. At the national level, the two companies increased rents by 19.6 to 23 per cent, and due to the size of these entities, their financial data likely reflects an overall upward trend in landlord profits across the country.

  • Halifax protesters demand ban on fixed-term leases

    On May 3, ACORN Halifax held a protest to demand a ban on fixed-term leases in Nova Scotia. Fixed-term leases, unlike periodic leases, allow landlords to raise rents above the province’s five per cent cap between tenancies. Advocates say that this practice results in significant rent hikes that push people out of their homes and prevent them from re-entering the rental market. While lease information is not collected by the government, ACORN highlighted the 600 per cent increase in unhoused people in Halifax over the past year as evidence of landlords’ increased use of fixed-term leases. A 2023 survey conducted by the Elizabeth Fry Society also revealed that nearly 23 per cent of the people they interviewed lost their homes due to a renoviction or fixed-term lease. ACORN advocates are now asking the provincial government to vote in favor of new legislation currently being discussed in the legislature that could restrict the use of fixed-term leases. The provincial government has responded by emphasizing their focus on increasing housing supply, rather than altering lease regulations. 



  • City of Ottawa takes first step to pass a long-overdue renoviction bylaw

    The City of Ottawa has taken a significant step towards addressing renovictions by voting to explore a new bylaw, modelled after Hamilton’s renoviction bylaw. The anti-renoviction bylaw would aim to protect renters from being evicted in bad faith to be replaced by renters paying a higher amount. The decision follows a notable increase in renovictions, with Ottawa ACORN reporting a 545 per cent rise in eviction notices in the city between 2017 and 2022. The bylaw would require landlords to obtain a building permit and provide an engineer’s report proving the necessity of major renovation works before evicting renters. Additionally, landlords would need to offer temporary accommodation or compensation and allow renters to return at the same rental rate once renovations are complete. 

  • Ontario seals $357 million housing deal with federal government

    In light of Ontario’s failure to meet the housing targets in its Action Plan under the National Housing Strategy, the federal government had previously decided to withhold $357 million in affordable housing funding from the province. Federal housing minister Sean Fraser criticized Ontario’s performance, as the province has achieved only six per cent of its targets, announcing that the funds would be disbursed directly to municipalities. In response, the provincial government developed a revised Action Plan that promised to achieve 28 per cent of its original targets and includes an improved funding delivery model through municipal service managers. The federal government reversed its decision to bypass the province for new funding as the revised targets puts Ontario on par with other provinces. 


  • Quebec housing minister tables bill putting three-year pause on certain evictions

    On May 22, Quebec housing minister France-Élaine Duranceau tabled Bill 65, An Act to limit lessors’ right of eviction and to enhance the protection of senior lessees. The proposed bill would impose a three-year moratorium on evictions for subdivision, enlargement, or change of use of a rental unit. The moratorium could be lifted earlier if Quebec’s vacancy rate rises above three per cent. Evictions for necessary demolitions and repossession for a landlord’s own use are not covered by the bill. The new legislation would also extend protections against evictions for seniors. Currently, low-income seniors over 70 who have lived in their rental unit for at least 10 years are protected from evictions. Bill 65 would extend this protection to 24,000 additional households, by lowering the minimum age to 65 and increasing the threshold for qualifying income by 25 per cent. While the Liberals have reserved their judgment until the bill is further studied, Québec Solidaire and housing organizations like FRAPRU and RCLALQ welcomed the measures in Bill 65, which they have long pushed for, while challenging the minister’s view that the housing crisis in Quebec has been spurred by a recent spike in temporary residents. Both FRAPRU and RCLALQ would like to see the bill go further, by including evictions for repossessions under the moratorium.    



  • Housing incentive program would require Winnipeg developers to offer subsidized units

    The City of Winnipeg is considering a new bylaw to create a Capital Grant Incentive Program using $25 million from the federal Housing Accelerator Fund allocation. If approved, this incentive program would offer grants of $25,000 to $35,000 per unit to build 600 new affordable units in multi-residential projects and downtown housing developments. Eligible developers would be required to offer half of the units as rent-geared-to income, supportive, or transitional housing. The incentive program would also require efficient project planning, and eligible projects would need to be shovel-ready within one year. CCHR’s Senior Policy and Outreach Advisor, Yutaka Dirks, commended the program’s emphasis on rent-geared-to-income housing. However, he notes the need for clarity on the definition of affordability. The incentive program defines affordable housing as either 80 per cent of median market rents, or 30 per cent of median household income, both of which would be unaffordable to lower income households.


  • Broad support for Saskatoon’s affordable housing plan

    The City of Saskatoon is planning to allocate $41.3 million from the federal Housing Accelerator Fund to build more affordable housing. Most of the funding would be dedicated to various incentive programs, including the Innovative Housing Incentives policy, densification projects, and developments on municipal land. Eligible developers would be able to access up to $27,000 per unit and benefit from a five-year tax abatement for each new affordable unit built. Developers would be required to maintain affordability for a minimum of 20 years, with units priced below market rates. The length of the affordability period raised concern among landlords who believe it will deter developers from building in Saskatoon. Meanwhile, housing advocates argue that long-term agreements are necessary, as there is little incentive for landlords to keep their rents affordable otherwise.


  • Alberta government passes contentious suite of bills as spring legislature session wraps up

    The Alberta legislature passed a controversial piece of legislation introduced by the UCP last month: Bill 20, Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act. On the one hand, measures in the bill would provide municipalities with new tools to speed up housing construction. For example, municipalities could exempt non-profit and subsidized housing from municipal taxes, reduce requirements for building and environmental standards, offer digital options for public consultations, remove non-essential public hearings, and reduce the number of pre-development studies. On the other hand, Bill 20 complements measures contained in another controversial legislation, Bill 18, that would further expand provincial power in Alberta. While Bill 18 requires municipalities to obtain approval from the provincial government to enter into agreements with the federal government, Bill 20 enables the province to remove elected municipal Council members and repeal local bylaws. Pressure from municipal leaders led the Municipal Affairs Minister to add conditions to these powers. 

  • Edmonton mayor names 16-member task force to tackle housing and homelessness issues

    Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi recently announced the creation of the Community Mobilization Task Force on Housing and Homelessness. This task force aims to address growing rates of housing precarity and homelessness in Edmonton. The initiative has been in development since the City declared a housing and homelessness emergency at the beginning of 2024, and the mandate of the task force will go beyond studying issues underlying the housing and homelessness crisis in Edmonton, to focus on developing actionable solutions to create more non-market and supportive housing options.

British Columbia

  • Provincial government steps in to prevent a summer homelessness crisis

    Following appeals from the City of Vancouver to the provincial government to uphold bylaws to protect Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units (after the bylaws were struck down by provincial courts), provincial Bill 27, Municipalities Enabling and Validating Amendment Act, received Royal Assent on May 16. The bill gives power to the City of Vancouver to enact its SRO bylaws and curb rent gouging in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Owners of SRO units will no longer be able to increase rents beyond the provincial limit between tenancies, while facing strong penalties for non-compliance. Local housing advocates welcomed the news, saying that it will help protect close to 3,600 low-income renters. Since February, almost 500 SRO renters have been evicted and 1,000 more are at risk of being displaced through economic evictions. SRO rents have increased by a staggering 21 per cent in recent years, with some units renting for as high as $2,000 per month. The Mayor of Vancouver lauded the provincial government, but recognized it as a temporary measure that might not continue after the provincial election in October. Housing advocates are also calling on the government to extend vacancy control to all rentals, a proposal the government does not support, as it believes it could deter private investments in new housing supply, despite evidence to the contrary.

  • Homelessness survivors call for reform at BC legislature

    On May 7, members of the Housing Justice Project called on the provincial government to implement the eight actions to eliminate homelessness outlined in their report Homes for All: Evaluating the Right to Housing in Victoria. The report is informed by lived experts and sheds light on the living options of people who have experienced homelessness. It argues that temporary and transitional shelters are unsafe and do not meet human rights standards for adequate housing. In Greater Victoria, close to 1,700 people experience homelessness on any given night, and 87 per cent reported being unable to secure permanent housing due to high rent prices and a lack of affordable options. The report calls for the elimination of long-term shelters and transitional housing, and instead advocates for a direct path to permanent housing and drastically increasing the supply of subsidized units.
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