Housing policy news: September 2022

September 30, 2022

The latest developments in housing policy from across Canada:
A map of Canada with the words "Housing policy news: September 2022"


  • New housing data released by Statistics Canada brings mixed news 

    On September 21, Statistics Canada released its 2021 census data on housing, which found that the proportion of people living in core housing need fell from 12.7% in 2016 to 10.1% in 2021 due to rising incomes. While this may demonstrate that people are struggling less with housing affordability, adequacy and suitability, the situation is much more complex. In terms of affordability, shelter costs increased by 17.6% between 2016 and 2021 for renters while homeowners experienced an increase of 9.7%. At the same time, income supports targeted to lower income communities during the pandemic such as CERB have likely played a role in improving housing affordability in 2021. That said, one in five renters spend more than 30% of their income on shelter costs. 

    The data also showed that renters are disproportionately impacted, with twice the number of renters experiencing core housing need in large cities like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver compared to homeowners. In addition, three times as many Indigenous people lived in houses that are in need of repairs compared to the general population even as housing conditions for Indigenous communities have improved since the last census period.  

    Notably, homeownership rates have declined over the last five years. While the greatest decline is seen amongst younger adults aged 25 to 29, the trend of declining homeownership rates is expected to continue. Finally, provincial variations show that British Columbia has the highest rate of unaffordable homes at 25.5% with Ontario next at 24.2%. 
  • The federal government announced new measures aimed at addressing rising unaffordability 

    On September 13, the federal government announced it will more than double its Budget 2022 commitment to provide $500 in housing benefits in addition to the existing one-time rental supports offered under the Canada Housing Benefit program. At a cost of $475 million, the government says the benefits will reach 1.8 million people. In addition, the government announced a $200 million investment in a five-year rent-to-own program under the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund. As part of a larger $2 billion investment to create up to 17,000 homes in Canada, these funds are to be used in helping housing providers create rent-to-own models. In this arrangement, first time homebuyers who are struggling to secure a mortgage have the option of building up equity through paying a portion of their monthly rent towards a down payment with the intention of eventually purchasing the unit. Experts note that the program may make housing more accessible but not necessarily more affordable.



  • Gaps in Nova Scotia’s tenancy laws leave renters in a precarious situation 

    Tenant advocates in Nova Scotia have raised concerns around fixed term leases as vacancy rates remain low and as housing affordability has become a chronic problem across the province. Current tenancy laws allow landlords to offer tenants a “fixed-term” lease with a start and end date with no automatic renewal. Landlords can choose not to renew the lease without any explanation, effectively terminating the tenant’s lease and leaving them with no recourse. Advocates have cited increasing instances of such lease terminations in light of a temporary two percent rent cap introduced by the provincial government in 2020. Since landlords are free to increase the rent without any restrictions for new tenants, there is an added incentive for some landlords to evict existing tenants who are on a fixed-term lease. Advocates are calling for more effective regulations that require landlords to offer tenants a new lease after the original lease expires, to make the rent increase guideline permanent and to add rent increase regulations to the unit instead of the tenant.  


  • Tenants are anxious as New Brunswick’s temporary rent cap winds down

    New Brunswick’s rent increase regulation of 3.8% introduced in January 2022 is set to expire in December. Tenant advocates fear exorbitant increases could lead to economic evictions of tenants who are unable to pay the rent increase. ACORN New Brunswick is calling for an overhaul of the Residential Tenancies Act, to ban renovictions and make rent control permanent and to tie rent increases to the unit as opposed to the tenant. They explain that these forms of rent control would help to disincentivize evictions.  


  • PEI’s highest ever rent hike permitted by its Regulatory and Appeals Commission provokes a backlash 

    PEI’s government is vowing to fight the decision made by the independent Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to set the annual rent cap for 2023 at 5.2% for unheated rental units and 10.8% for heated rental units. This is the largest allowable hike on record since 1989. Since 2014, the rent cap has varied between one to two per cent. Over 200 tenants and 65 landlords made submissions to the Commission before the decision was made and there is great disappointment that the needs of tenants were not reflected in the final decision. Stronger protections for tenants in the Residential Tenancies Act alongside a more comprehensive housing strategy is needed to help renters stay in their homes and have access to secure rental housing.  




  • Des arrondissements Montréalais luttent contre les rénovictions dans les résidences privées pour aînés

    Plusieurs arrondissements Montréalais sont dans le processus d’introduire des mesures pour interdire la reconversion des résidences pour aînés en autre chose que du logement social. Cette requête fait suite à une motion passée par le Conseil de la Ville, qui en appelle au gouvernement provincial pour introduire un moratorium de un an sur la conversion des résidences pour aînés en blocs appartements. D’autres locataires ont amené les propriétaires en cour après qu’ils aient été sommés de quitter les lieux. Cependant, un représentant des propriétaires s’est plaint que leur décision de convertir ces résidences est justifiée par  l’incapacité de ces operateurs à gérer la flambée des prix et les barrières administratives. Il n’existe pas de mesure d’aide telles que le crédit sur la taxe municipale. Un des maires d’arrondissement suggère que c’est la province qui devrait établir des solutions à long terme qui conviennent à tous. 

    Pendant ce temps, la nouvelle administration de Hampstead a adopté un règlement qui oblige les promoteurs souhaitant faire des rénovations d’obtenir d’abord un permis. Ils peuvent l’obtenir en démontrant que le logement est vacant, ou dans le cas contraire, que le locataire donne son accord pour les travaux et que des alternatives lui sont offertes. Cette décision représente un changement radical par rapport à l’administration précédente, qui n’était pas favorable de telles mesures. 


  • Montreal boroughs fight back against renovictions 

    Several Montreal boroughs are in the process of introducing measures to forbid seniors’ residences from being converted into anything other than social or affordable housing. This follows a motion passed by Montreal’s City Council to call for the provincial government to introduce a one-year moratorium on converting seniors’ residents into apartment buildings. Other residents have taken their building owners to court after they were asked to move out. However, a representative for owners of seniors’ residents complains that the move towards conversion is a result of operators’ inability to handle escalating costs and red tape. There are no relief measures such as a municipal tax credit. A borough mayor suggests that it’s up to the province to come up with a longer-term solution that works for everyone.  

    Meanwhile, a new administration in the upscale suburb of Hampstead in Montreal has adopted a bylaw that will require developers who want to do renovations to first get a permit. They can obtain this by showing that the unit is vacant or if the tenant has agreed to the renovations in writing and that alternative living options or other arrangements have been provided to the tenant. The move is a departure from the past administration which was not supportive of such protective measures. 


  • Deaths among people experiencing homelessness in Toronto nearly doubled in 3 years 

    According to Toronto Public Health Data, deaths among people experiencing homelessness spiked from 128 in 2019 to 221 deaths in 2021. In the last six months, 92 people have died with more than half of those deaths attributed to drug toxicity. An advocate for people experiencing homelessness is sounding the alarm and calls out the deepening housing crisis and the City’s approach to clearing encampments as factors that have driven many into isolation. Toronto Public Health noted that it has integrated harm reduction into City-based shelters and expanded mental health supports to 12 shelter hotels, and will continue to advocate for expanding these services. 
  • York Region moves forward with vacant homes tax plan 

    York Region’s council voted to ask staff to come up with a plan and draft bylaw to discourage property owners from leaving their homes vacant. As the benchmark house price reached about $1.3 million in June, the proposed policy would bring much needed supply into the housing market and could raise between $13.4 million to $26.8 million in revenues to help address the housing crisis. In fact, 88% of the public who were recently surveyed in the region supported the measure. Next steps will involve figuring out what exactly is defined as a vacant home and which of the nine municipalities in the region the policy would apply to. 
  • Ontario will need 1.5 million more homes by 2031 

    A report released by Smart Prosperity Institute applied a refined benchmark to effectively validate projections made by the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force that the province will need to build 1.5 million homes over the next ten years. Furthermore, 48% of the demand for housing will come from Peel Region, York Region and the City of Toronto. However, these projections are 500,000 units higher than forecasts made to inform the provincial Growth Plan. This is a significant mismatch; surrounding communities may experience spillover demand as families look for more affordable options. While there are other projections available, such as CMHC’s significantly higher estimates, a more comprehensive plan to address bottlenecks to housing construction and the building of the right type of housing to meet varied housing demands is a priority. 



  • New Edmonton supportive housing complexes ready for tenants but remain vacant

    About 60 units in two new supportive housing complexes remain vacant in Edmonton, while a local housing agency, Homeward Trust, is working to understand how to best operate these units without the funding support it needs from the province. The homes are expected to house people experiencing mental health and addiction challenges and are part of 5 other projects funded by the City of Edmonton and through the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative. In addition, three hotels are in the process of being converted to offer 243 more units. Provincial reluctance to support these housing options has left the housing agency without supports and as a local Councillor notes, it is important to provide supportive housing as a longer term option which is more cost effective than emergency shelter responses. 


  • B.C. caps rent increases for 2023 to 2% 

    As part of a variety of measures to tackle inflation, the B.C. government has announced that rent increases will be capped at 2% in 2023. While rent increases were frozen in 2021 because of the pandemic, earlier caps have been tied to inflation. The maximum allowable increase for the coming year has disappointed tenants advocates. Tenant advocates fear the cap may incentivize landlords to evict tenants and substantially increase rents for newer tenants given that the rent caps are only applied to tenants, and not the unit. They say stronger vacancy control legislation is needed to complement the current rent caps.  
  • Canada provides $1.4 billion in loans to support BC First Nations construct 3,000 rental homes

    The federal government has provided a $1.4 billion loan to Vancouver’s Squamish Nation to help finance the construction of 3,000 homes in Sen̓áḵw, lands that were recently reclaimed by the Squamish Nation. The loan from CMHC, the largest in Canadian history, will finance the first two phases of a four-phase project that will eventually consist of 6,000 rental units and 1,200 homes. The terms of the CMHC loans have received criticism for not including more stringent affordability criteria. However, the Squamish Nation’s Council Chair has noted that without the loan it would not have been feasible to construct any rental units. Other developers also explain that under current economic conditions and with additional costs stemming from requirements such as meeting efficiency standards, adding more rules could disincentivize them from applying for rental construction loans. Nevertheless, under the current agreement, 20% of the new rental developments in the first two phases will be below market rents but may not provide the deeply affordable rental housing that the community needs. 
  • Vancouver and Hogan’s Alley Society agree to set up a community land trust in a historically Black neighbourhood 

    The City of Vancouver and the Hogan’s Alley Society have reached an agreement to create a community land trust and a mixed-use redevelopment at a site in Strathcona, in downtown Vancouver. The Hogan’s Alley neighbourhood was home to Vancouver’s Black community during the first half of the twentieth century. However, city officials neglected to maintain the basic infrastructure of the neighbourhood and over the course of the 1960s, the area was demolished to make way for an overpass as part of a general trend of “urban renewal” across North America that displaced many Black communities to accommodate expansion of transport and other infrastructure. The Community Land Trust is the latest move in attempting to redress such injustices through taking land out of the private market and placing it in the hands of the community to be used as a resource to serve “vulnerable members of our diverse city community.”    



  • Vague evictions processes for public housing in NWT leave some in precarious situations 

    A Yellowknife resident living next to a social housing building has struggled to navigate the housing system and lodged his complaint about persistent instances of domestic violence and disruption in a particular unit. The conditions and procedures to evict a tenant living in social housing can appear to be very restrictive and convoluted, potentially precluding people from protecting themselves from possible harm. While protections for tenants are also necessary, conditions for evictions overlook plausible grounds such as domestic violence while the review process entails many layers, eventually subject to the discretion of a court judge. Housing authorities were not very responsive when questions about these bottlenecks. 


Get the latest updates about the right to housing in Canada