- New report reveals that Canada needs to build 10 million homes in the next decade to restore affordability for people in housing need
A new report commissioned by the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate (OFHA) found that the projected affordable housing supply shortage in Canada was almost triple than what the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s latest Supply Gaps Estimate report suggests. The new OFHA report, written by housing expert Carolyn Whitzman, found that Canada is currently missing 4.4 million homes for people in housing need and would need an additional 9.6 million homes by 2031, with a third of the supply going towards very low to moderate income households. For the first time, the report includes populations previously excluded from census counts of core housing need, like students, people living in congregate housing, people in long-term care and people in situations of hidden homelessness.
- Fall Economic Statement focuses on new housing supply but lacks sufficient affordability measures for renters in greatest need
On November 21, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland presented the federal government’s 2023 Fall Economic Statement to the House of Commons. Measures for housing and affordability are at the centre of the fall update, but funding of new housing supply would represent only a fraction of the funds needed to address the current housing supply shortage. The dedicated budget for affordable housing is also minimal. While $15 billion will be geared towards incentives for private developers, $1 billion will be allocated to the creation of social, non-profit, and co-operative housing. Other measures include removing income tax deductions on short-term rentals, better protections against foreclosures, and more flexible mortgage lending rules. CCHR’s Executive Director Annie Hodgins said that these measures are a step in the right direction, but that not enough is included for renters who need truly affordable housing.
- New guidance urges cities to treat encampment residents with dignity
The National Working Group on Homeless Encampments issued a guide on municipal engagement to help support people living in shelters or in the streets. Across Canada, encampments are multiplying in and around metropolitan areas due to a severe lack of capacity in shelters and a lack of adequate housing alternatives. The Municipal Engagement Guidance report encourages municipalities to adopt a respectful and dignified approach towards encampment residents, by providing essential services on site, developing safety protocols with the residents, and exploring all possible alternatives for re-housing before resorting to evictions.
- ACORN report shows property and maintenance standards lack enforcement
A recent survey by New Brunswick ACORN looked at the effectiveness of property maintenance bylaws across the province and found that, even in cities where such bylaws exist, enforcement was an issue. Many tenants reported problems with their unit related to the presence of pests and mould, unsanitary conditions, lack of adequate heating, or issues getting their landlords to do the required repairs. Property maintenance bylaws are enforced based on complaints received from tenants. The survey shows that 86% of tenants are not aware of the existence of legislation on property maintenance standards, and 41% are afraid to make requests to their landlord. In addition, the cost of repairs, when carried out, can be passed onto the tenant and lead to rent increases beyond what is considered reasonable by the Tenant and Landlord Relations Office. To ensure that property maintenance standards are enforced, NB ACORN proposes establishing a landlord licensing program that includes registration fees for all units, regular proactive inspections by the municipality and prohibitive fines for landlords found in non-compliance
Prince EDWARD ISLAND
- P.E.I. Greens ask for clear rules on additional rent increases
For rent increases that go beyond the rent cap established by the Residential Tenancy Act, landlords must apply to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC) and demonstrate that the additional rent increase is necessary to recover costs or get a reasonable return on investment (ROI). However, it is unclear what “reasonable” means, and some landlords have been able to get rent increases of up to 15% approved. P.E.I.’s Opposition Green Caucus is asking for changes in the RTA to set fixed percentages for ROIs, to help landlords estimate the potential ROI on a property before they purchase it, and to prevent unfair rent increases for tenants.
- Advocates and Green Party calling for extension of renoviction ban
After being in place for two years, P.E.I.’s moratorium on renovictions ended on November 1, 2023. Rules in the new RTA provide some safeguards, by requiring an eviction notice of 6 months, and granting existing tenants a right to return to the unit after renovations are completed, or one month’s rent as compensation. With vacancy rates at 0.8%, housing advocates argue that provisions in the new RTA are insufficient to protect tenants against evictions for renovations. On November 8, Opposition Leader Karla Bernard tabled Bill 108 to extend the renoviction ban for another year.
- Montreal’s inclusionary zoning policy under review
Montreal’s Bylaw for a Diverse Metropolis requires new developments of more than 450 square meters to include at least 20% social housing units, 20% affordable housing units and 20% family housing units. Developers can opt out of these requirements by paying a financial contribution or ceding a portion of the land to the City. The City’s Housing Commission received a report showing that in two years, the “20-20-20″ bylaw resulted in only one social housing project, despite the City entering into 164 agreements with private developers. Developers consistently prefer to make a financial contribution rather than building new social and affordable housing, but even the $26 million collected by the City would not cover the cost of a single social housing project. Critics of the bylaw, along with construction professionals and Montreal’s Board of Trade, called on the City to suspend the bylaw. After a public hearing on November 10, the City decided to keep the bylaw in place, with adjustments such as increasing the amount of the contribution paid by developers.
- Winnipeg City Council votes to end exclusionary zoning
Spurred by the requirements for upzoning citywide to access $192 million through the federal Housing Accelerator Fund, Winnipeg City Council passed a motion to allow fourplexes and four-story buildings near transit and commercial hubs. The rezoning process is expected to be implemented gradually starting in the spring of 2025. The City is also considering piloting a density bonusing program that would allow developers to build more units than what zoning rules allow, in exchange for including 20% of units that would remain affordable for 20 years. Both developers and housing advocates are in favor of the pilot program, which, if approved, could be applied citywide starting in 2025.
- USask and Saskatoon Fire Department collaborate on housing insecurity project
The number of housing units deemed uninhabitable by Saskatoon’s Fire Department is increasing year after year. The Department is responsible for carrying out inspections to ensure that property managers are in compliance with the City’s Property Maintenance & Nuisance Abatement Bylaw, and had to issue several notices of closure to both tenants and homeowners, leading to displacement of residents, most of them seniors or low income families. The Fire Department is now collaborating with the University of Saskatchewan on a research project to understand the effects of municipal policies and economic support programs on housing security. Based on surveys with frontline responders, the results of the survey should help the City to develop more proactive policies that can ensure habitability without compromising housing security.
- City of Calgary committee approves the creation of a new housing committee
On October 31, the City of Calgary’s Community Development Committee received a report advocating for the creation of a formal Council Advisory Committee on Housing, following recommendations by the Housing and Affordability Task Force. The role of the Council Advisory Committee on Housing will be to advise Council on housing-related initiatives, monitor progress in affordable housing supply and strengthen collaboration with other levels of government and civil society. The Committee will be composed of 15 housing stakeholders, including Indigenous communities, people with lived experience, seniors, students and other equity-seeking groups.
- B.C. tables new legislation to increase housing supply
On November 1, B.C.’s Minister of Housing tabled Bill 44 to help accelerate the construction of new housing. The Housing Statutes Amendment Act would require municipalities to plan their zoning process in advance to allow densification, by adapting their long-term urban development plans to housing needs forecasts and updating their zoning bylaws every 5 years. In addition, municipalities must designate Transit Oriented Development (TOD) areas where upzoning would allow for buildings of up to 20 stories high near transit stations. Upzoning requirements are further supported by measures to fast-track development approvals and funding, by allowing municipalities to use development charges to fund part of the public infrastructure needed for housing development, for example. The province will be releasing a manual in December to support municipalities in the process, and has also announced that it will provide standardized home designs to guide developers in adapting new building forms to upzoning requirements.
- Poor Inuit housing conditions are a ‘direct result of colonialism’ says Federal Housing Advocate
On November 27, the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate released an observational report on Inuit housing, following the Advocate’s meetings with northern communities last year. The report states that the housing conditions in which Inuit communities live are a direct violation of their right to housing. There is a serious shortage of housing in Nunavut and Nunatsiavut, and a high incidence of poverty and homelessness. In addition, access to basic services and proper heating and ventilation are crucially lacking, due to the prohibitive costs of construction and repairs in remote areas. Finally, overcrowding, and the lack of accessible and culturally adequate housing were other prevalent issues the Advocate discussed with community members and leaders. The report recognizes that these issues are rooted in the histories of colonial violence and forced displacements of Indigenous communities, coupled with chronic underfunding of northern communities. The report also provides recommendations developed jointly with Inuit leaders to ensure that the right to housing of Inuit communities is upheld. These recommendations aim to empower Inuit governing entities, and include proposals such as transferring jurisdiction and funding of Inuit housing programs to Inuit governments, creating an independent Ombudsman for Inuit housing, and taking into consideration the climate realities of Arctic Canada, amongst other measures.
- Yukon judge hears constitutional challenge of evictions under territory’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) Act
A court case brought by a Whitehorse resident in January 2021 could set a legal precedent in the application of the territory’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) Act. The Act allows landlords to bypass regulations around evictions contained in the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, by permitting short-notice evictions when illegal or disruptive activities are suspected to happen on the property. With SCAN evictions, an inspection is first carried out by a SCAN unit, before tenants are issued a 5-day eviction notice, which they can only challenge in court. During the hearing before the Supreme Court of Yukon on November 10, lawyers on the case argued that the SCAN Act is unconstitutional and violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Chief Justice Suzanne Ducan has yet to rule on the legality of the SCAN Act.