Understanding Low-end of Market Rental Housing in Canada

September 21, 2023

The Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR) is proud to be partnering with Purpose Analytics and several national partners on an innovative initiative funded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Housing Supply Challenge. The Low-end of Market Rental (LEMR) Housing Monitor project aims to build an understanding of the scale of and change in affordable housing stock in Canada, through the lens of six major urban centres: Greater Toronto Area, Metro Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Winnipeg and Halifax.

A lack of affordable rental housing across the country has resulted in a crisis in many Canadian cities, especially for lower-income renters who face increasing difficulties securing a home they can afford. Despite growing attention paid to this issue, little is currently known about the scale and scope of the existing deeply affordable housing stock in Canada, or about changes taking place at the low-end of the private rental market, which are the most affordable private housing options available to residents. To address this knowledge gap, CCHR and Purpose Analytics developed this project, which seeks to integrate and aggregate existing data related to the loss of units and the displacement of people living in deeply affordable rental housing in urban areas. The project will also evaluate the potential to use these datasets to produce a modelled estimate of how the supply and location of deeply affordable market rental housing is changing over time.

The project will produce an online tool called the Low-end of Market Rental (LEMR) Housing Monitor, which will present data on low-end market rental housing. This free and open access tool will be available to policy makers, service providers, community advocates and anyone in the general public interested in matters of affordable housing supply. Data will be brought in from various sources including census data, administrative data from local governments and data from community organizations. The goal is to provide accessible, centralized data that can enrich evidence-based decision-making in housing across Canada.

Project background 

The Low-end of Market Rental (LEMR) Housing Monitor is funded by CMHC’s Housing Supply Challenge, a fund aimed at creating solutions to overcoming barriers to the creation of new housing supply in Canada. The focus of the data-driven round of the challenge is on improving access to data so that it can be utilized in important housing decisions. The Housing Supply Challenge is one way in which Canada’s National Housing Strategy is promoting informed decision-making throughout government.

In the absence of an adequate supply of social and non-profit housing, it is the “low end” of the private rental market where the majority of lower-income renters must seek housing, and it is this supply that appears to be declining the fastest. Deeply affordable rental housing, or low-end of market rentals, represents a critical component of the housing spectrum, providing homes to lower income households where equity-deserving groups are disproportionately represented.

In a 2020 study, housing policy expert Steve Pomeroy found that from 2011 to 2016, for every new affordable unit of housing created in Canada through government funded programs, Canada lost 15 existing affordable private market rental units. Without a baseline understanding of the current state of affordable housing stock in major cities, and no way to monitor change over time, it is currently impossible for decision-makers to actively intervene on issues related to housing supply and to monitor the impact of housing programs and policies. Although some data on these matters exists, it tends to be scattered in various (and sometimes unknown) locations across Canada’s urban and rural municipalities. There is no central point where this information is stored, systematically organized, and shared.

The LEMR Housing Monitor tool was developed as a response to this gap, and will provide a sophisticated tool serving as a central point to access trustworthy data on deeply affordable private market units. The project will also identify possible data gaps in the six urban centres, and assess where the collection of additional and new data may be necessary.

The project to date

Currently, the project is engaging with community organizations and public bodies to identify their data needs and priorities to help shape the design of the LEMR Housing Monitor, and to gather existing data that will populate the tool.    

The project team has formed Regional Advisory Groups in the six urban centres consisting of various local non-profit organizations, and is engaging with local and regional governments as well as provincial housing authorities in our sites of study. The team is currently exploring, gathering, processing and refining available data, while identifying gaps in publicly available sources of data. The work to develop the infrastructure of the LEMR Housing Monitor is at an advanced stage, and the tool will be launched in early 2024.  

How to contribute

If you are responsible for managing data on affordable rental housing, CCHR and Purpose Analytics invite you to make a contribution to the LEMR Housing Monitor.

At this moment, we are seeking data for the following areas only:

  • Calgary
  • Halifax
  • Greater Toronto Area
  • Metro Vancouver
  • Island of Montreal (plus Laval and Longueuil)
  • Winnipeg

Please fill out the form below to get in touch with the LEMR project team.

CCHR and Purpose Analytics are grateful for the contributions of our partners on this project:

  • British Columbia Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA)
  • Community Housing Transformation Centre (The Centre)  
  • Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) 

The Low-End of Market Rental (LEMR) project received funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) under the Housing Supply Challenge. However, the views expressed are the personal views of the author and CMHC accepts no responsibility for them. 

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