Housing Policy News: Top Stories of 2023

January 11, 2024

Yearly round-up of developments in housing policy from across Canada:


  • Scotiabank released a report which concluded that the affordability crisis could be fixed by addressing the social housing shortage 
    In January 2023, Scotiabank released a report calling on governments in Canada to double the country’s stock of social housing – deeply affordable housing where rent is set at 30 per cent of household income. Currently, Canada is an outlier amongst OECD countries: social housing makes up about 3.5 per cent of Canada’s housing stock, as compared to the OECD average of 7 per cent. At the same time, housing affordability continues to deteriorate across the country, with asking market rents rising between 12-25 per cent over 2021-2022. Households continue to struggle, as data released by Statistics Canada in February 2023 showed that one in four Canadians said that they were unable to cover an unexpected expense of $500. Data also showed that almost half of Canadians were very concerned with their ability to afford rent and had concerns about the rising costs of gasoline and food. In October 2023, housing advocates across the country joined a National Day of Action organized by Social Housing and Human Rights, a coalition of organizations and individuals advocating for more federal investment in social housing. The coalition called for 30,000 social housing units to be built across the country every year until 2034, with rent set at 30 per cent of household income in perpetuity.

  • Federal funding commitments continued to do little to address the housing crisis  
    In March 2023, the federal government released its 2023 budget. The budget 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. Although many welcomed this investment, it was deemed insufficient to effectively address the housing challenges faced by Indigenous households. In December 2023, the federal government announced the next steps for developing this strategy. The Federal Housing Advocate noted that the budget failed 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. In November 2023, the federal government released the Fall Economic Statement which also fell short on investments for affordable housing. While it was announced that $15 billion will be geared towards incentives for private developers, only $1 billion was allocated to the creation of social, non-profit, and co-operative housing. Other measures included 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 was included for renters who need truly affordable housing. CCHR had submitted a series of recommendations to the federal government during its pre-budget consultation process in October 2022. 
  • The National Housing Council recommended strengthening the National Housing Strategy  
    In April 2023, the National Housing Council published a report on the progress of the National Housing Strategy. The report found that Canada is losing affordable housing faster and in greater quantities than they are being created under the strategy. The report concluded with several recommendations on how to revise the strategy to adequately address the housing crisis including: 1) aligning the strategy with rights-based goals articulated in the National Housing Strategy Act; 2) allocating more funding towards creating non-market housing; 3) enhancing the Canada Housing Benefit; 4) establishing a separate funding stream for Indigenous housing programs; and 5) strengthening accountability and coordination within the federal government and with other levels of government. These recommendations have not been implemented by the federal government.
  • Canada’s first Review Panel examined the impacts of the financialization of rental housing 
    In April 2023, Canada’s first Review Panel was launched to examine the impacts of the financialization of purpose-built rental housing. The goal of the Review Panel was to look at the impact of the financialization of purpose-built rental housing on the housing system and the right to adequate housing as well as the federal government’s role in addressing this growing issue. The Review Panel received 194 written submissions from people affected by the financialization of housing, civil society organizations, experts in housing and human rights, and representatives from the purpose-built rental housing sector in Canada. Oral hearings for the Review Panel took place between October and December 2023. CCHR joined fellow experts to elaborate on our submission, to answer questions, and to recommend solutions.  

  • The federal government introduced Bill C-56 to bolster rental housing construction   
    In December 2023, the federal government passed Bill C-56, an Act to amend the Excise Tax Act and the Competition Act, in an effort to increase housing supply. A measure in the Act includes the removal of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on new rental construction. The bill is set to increase the GST rental rebate from 36 per cent to 100 per cent to incentivize the construction of apartment buildings, student housing and senior residences. According to the Department of Finance Canada, this will provide homebuilders with $25,000 in tax relief on apartments valued at $500,000. The initiative is expected to cost $4.5 billion between now and 2029. The rebate will be available to buildings with at least 4 apartments or 10 private rooms, as long as at least 90 per cent of the units are used for long-term rentals. The federal government has called on all provincial governments to apply the exemption to the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), however some housing advocates pointed out that these types of incentives are more geared towards increasing the profit margins of developers rather than creating the types of affordable rental units that households truly need.

  • The federal government began to implement conditional allocation of the Housing Accelerator Fund  

    In the fall of 2023, the federal government began providing funding to municipalities and provinces under the Housing Accelerator fund. Housing Minister Sean Fraser asked various municipalities to implement transformational changes to increase housing supply and affordability, such as by ending exclusionary zoning, in exchange for funding under this program. Several municipalities secured funding under these types of agreements, including London, Calgary, Brampton, Halifax, and Toronto. In October 2023, the Government of Quebec and the federal government reached an agreement to receive $900 million under the fund. The Quebec government pledged to match the federal funding for a total of $1.8 billion and to spend all of it on non-market housing options over the next five years, including co-operative housing, low income housing, and subsidized housing. Although housing advocates in Quebec acknowledge the province’s pledge as a good sign, they said that they will only take it seriously once it lays out its spending priorities.



  • The Government of New Brunswick released a new housing strategy     
    In June 2023, the province released a housing strategy called NB Housing: Housing for All. The strategy was based on input from over 160 housing stakeholders, ranging from community groups and non-profit organizations to builders, developers, homeowners, educators, and students. The strategy focused on preventing residents from becoming unhoused and identified $500 million of new and previously committed funding to put towards housing. New initiatives introduced under the strategy included funding for a new Rent Bank program for two years and a new tenant rental housing benefit to help protect tenants’ security of tenure. Despite these developments, tenants’ rights groups and opposition members of legislative assembly were disappointed that rent caps were not included in the strategy.  

Newfoundland and Labrador  

  • Homelessness rates in St. John’s were on the rise

    Homelessness and poverty became more visible problems in St. John’s as the cost of living continued to rise. End Homelessness St. John’s estimated that about 900 people experienced homelessness in the province in 2022 which represents a significant increase compared to the 165 people estimated to be experiencing homelessness in a 2018 point-in-time count. The method for measuring homelessness has changed and could partly account for the higher number. However, the rising rates of homelessness cannot be denied as evidenced by the rise of tent encampments. Advocates said that the government must address this issue with long-term policy solutions which also tackle the structural causes of homelessness.  

  • Federal Housing Advocate released a report on housing issues faced by Inuit communities in Labrador

    Newfoundland and Labrador’s housing minister has not yet responded to a report by the Federal Housing Advocate, released in November 2023, that details the housing crisis faced by Inuit communities in Newfoundland and Labrador (as well as Nunavut), with several recommendations to address the issue. Housing issues detailed in the report include the lack of secure housing which can be traced back to the provincial government’s decision to forcefully relocate the Labrador Inuit decades ago. This has resulted in households being forced into overcrowded living conditions. Inadequate upkeep of social housing units over the years has exacerbated housing problems. In the wake of the report’s release, the president of Nunatsiavut, in Northern Labrador, said that his government was ready to meet with its provincial counterparts to work toward solutions, but the provincial housing minister has not publicly responded to the report. Lack of public comment by the province on the report has reinforced the feelings of communities on the North Coast of Labrador of being forgotten.  


  • Halifax established a rental property registry

    In April 2023, Halifax Regional Council passed a bylaw to create a rental property registry. This marked a significant victory for renter advocates led by Halifax ACORN members, who advocated for the establishment of landlord licensing for several years. The registry will apply to all rental units within the municipality, which can lead to more data being collected on the available rental stock and stronger oversight of safety and maintenance for smaller rental buildings. Under the bylaw, property owners must register their rental properties by April 1, 2024. After that date, owners of rental properties that are unregistered may face fines of up to $10,000. 

  • The Government of Nova Scotia extended the interim rent cap to the end of 2025

    In April 2023, the Nova Scotia government passed legislation that extended the current interim rent cap to the end of 2025 and increased the rent cap from 2 per cent to 5 per cent 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 interim rent cap was first introduced 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 in February 2022. While advocates were relieved to hear that the rent cap will be extended again, they were concerned that the cap was increased to 5 per cent, with some calling for a permanent rent cap of 2 per cent. Advocates were also concerned that the new legislation did not address a remaining loophole that allows landlords to misuse fixed term leases to get around the rent cap.  


  • P.E.I. Greens asked for clear rules on additional rent increases 

    In April 2023, the provincial government adopted a new Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). Under the new RTA, the maximum rent increase for 2024 was set at 3 per cent. To increase rents beyond the rent cap, landlords must apply to the Residential Tenancy Office, and the director must consider various factors in deciding whether to approve the application, including the expectation of the landlord to have a reasonable return on investment (ROI). However, it remained unclear what “reasonable” means. Some landlords have been known to get a return of 15 per cent on their investment, and interim Green party leader, Karla Bernard, questioned whether such a high return was fair to tenants. In November 2023, the Green Caucus said that the new laws around rent increases require further clarification and asked 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 during their tenancies. 



  • Ontario court ruled that encampments can stay if there is a shortage of shelter beds

    In January 2023, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice denied the Regional Municipality of Waterloo’s request to remove a homeless encampment, in what was seen as a precedent setting case. The ruling was in line with case law from British Columbia, which found that it is an infringement on Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms rights to deny someone the ability to find shelter outside when there is no adequate or accessible space for them within the shelter system. The Court found that, as the number of people experiencing homelessness exceeded the number of shelter beds in the City of Kitchener, the region could not use its bylaws to prevent people from setting up temporary shelters on municipal land. The decision further articulated how the court interprets ‘accessibility’ and ‘availability’ of beds within the shelter system. Supporters of the decision indicated that the precedent set by this case will be a powerful tool for those advocating on behalf of encampment residents in Ontario and across the country. In November 2023, the Court denied a similar application by the City of Kingston for an order to clear an encampment, for similar reasons. 

  • The City of Toronto hired its first Deputy Ombudsman responsible to investigate systemic housing issues

    In July 2023, Toronto’s first Deputy Ombudsman for Housing, Reema Patel, was appointed. This new role was established to investigate systemic housing issues and monitor the planning and delivery of Toronto’s housing services and programs. The Deputy Ombudsman will also engage with individuals and communities facing housing precarity and other adequacy challenges to advance fairness in housing access and program delivery. The Deputy Ombudsman started their first investigation into the city’s decision to deny shelter access to refugee claimants and asylum seekers in May 2023. They were told that shelters were at capacity, and that they should seek help from federal programs, resulting in dozens of refugee claimants and asylum seekers being forced to camp out on the sidewalk outside a shelter intake office for several weeks. Following community mobilization and public outcry, the federal government announced that it would provide an additional $210 million to fund interim housing for asylum seekers, with $97 million being allocated to the City of Toronto. 


  • The Government of Quebec proposed new changes to landlord-tenant relations that have sparked protest

    In June 2023, the Quebec government tabled Bill 31, which was set to make it easier for landlords to refuse a tenant’s request to assign their lease, among many other proposed changes. In an environment where rents have been escalating, lease assignments were providing some tenants a way to limit rent increases. The change provoked protests among tenant advocates. Other changes in the bill included a new provision where landlords must indicate the maximum rent in a lease for the following five years and increasing compensation requirements for landlords who want to evict tenants. CCHR provided our input on the bill. The bill is currently under review and its adoption has been postponed to 2024. 



  • The NDP won the Manitoba provincial election on a platform that included housing promises 
    In October 2023, the NDP party won the provincial election, and secured enough seats for a majority government. NDP leader Wab Kinew became the first First Nations provincial premier in Canada. The Manitoba NDP made several housing promises before the election. These included bringing the renters’ tax credit from $525 to $700, limiting landlords’ ability to apply for above-guideline rent increases, and developing a regulatory process to ensure affordability is maintained when a non-profit or co-operative housing provider tries to sell buildings that were designed to be affordable housing. 


  • Saskatchewan’s income support programs remain insufficient to meet the needs of tenant recipients  
    In March 2023, Saskatchewan introduced increases to provincial assistance programs in its budget, including $14.3 million for the Saskatchewan Income Support program which includes a shelter benefit. The increases amount to only $30 more for most recipients. Advocates said that the increases are not enough, pointing out that many households who receive the shelter benefit under the income support program cannot afford to pay their rent. This issue will worsen as rents continue to rise.  


  • The UCP won the Alberta provincial election, but did not update the provincial housing plan
    In May 2023, The United Conservative Party (UCP) won the Alberta general election on taking 49 seats at the legislature, while the New Democratic Party (NDP) took 38 seats. The UCP remained confident in the 2021 provincial housing strategy “Stronger Foundations” and did not provide any new measures to address the issue of rent increases that has been felt across all urban centres in the province. 

  • Alberta’s official opposition proposed a rent cap bill  

    In December 2023, the Alberta official opposition introduced Bill 205, the Alberta Housing Protection Act, into the provincial legislature. The purpose of the bill is to create a two-year temporary rental cap at 2 per cent, followed by a two-year rental cap tied to inflation. The bill would also increase reporting requirements to ensure that the government is meeting its intended housing targets. The bill was introduced as a response to rental increases in the province which have limited the affordable housing options of many people and left them struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living. The provincial government continues to argue that rent regulation is not effective, and instead points to the rental supplement program it offers which supports low income Alberta households as a solution. Rent regulation is essential to keeping rents affordable in the long term and maintaining tenants’ security of tenure, and yet only six provinces in Canada currently have a rent regulation policy in place.  

  • Edmonton city council passed a new zoning bylaw

    In October 2023, Edmonton city council approved a new zoning bylaw that will introduce the first new significant changes in decades. The new changes will allow infill housing to be built in any residential lot in Edmonton, and allow for dense housing on any lot in the city, with some zones allowing infill and small apartments and others allowing high-rises. The hope is that the new bylaw will allow much needed housing of different types to be built in the fast-growing city. 

British Columbia

  • The Government of British Columbia introduced new measures to increase affordable housing and tackle speculation in the housing market

    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.


northwest territories

  • The Government of Northwest Territories and the federal government announced a new joint project for affordable homes

    In October 2023, Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane was joined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Yellowknife to announce a jointly funded project between the federal government and the Territory. Under the project, the City of Yellowknife will provide the land while the federal government will provide the capital under the rapid housing initiative to build 50 new affordable homes. However, the Prime Minister did not make any commitments for federal support to improve the infrastructure in the territory, which Premier Cochrane was pushing for. The premier has been critical of the lack of support for infrastructure in the Northwest Territories and said that the gap between Northern and Southern Canada was highlighted during the record wildfire season experienced in the territory in 2023, during which many living outside of Yellowknife lost their homes, and 70 per cent of the territory’s population was displaced. The premier also emphasized that the territory needs support in building affordable housing supply, as well as support in upgrading necessary infrastructure to protect the territory and its residents from future climate disasters. 


  • The Federal Housing Advocate says poor Inuit housing conditions are a ‘direct result of colonialism’ 

    In November 2023, the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate released an observational report on Inuit housing, following their meetings with northern communities in 2022. The report stated 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 recognized 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 provided recommendations developed jointly with Inuit leaders to ensure that the right to housing of Inuit communities is upheld. These recommendations aimed to empower Inuit governing entities, and included 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.


  • The Yukon Liberals and NDP signed a confidence and supply agreement that introduced changes to rental regulations 
    In February 2023, Yukon’s Liberal and NDP parties signed a confidence and supply agreement that included significant changes to rental regulations including prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants without providing a reason. Prior to this change, Yukon was one of the only jurisdictions in Canada where evicting a tenant without cause was permitted. Another change introduced was a minimum and maximum rate for rent increases, capping rent increases at 5 per cent annually regardless of the rate of inflation. The agreement also included a commitment to carry out a review of the Residential Tenancies Act, which is yet to take place.  
Get the latest updates about the right to housing in Canada