Housing in Canada: Shelter and the Storm


The National Housing Accord released an excellent report in August 2023 called A Multi-Sector Approach to Ending Canada’s Rental Housing Crisis. The report, which you can find here, opens with a Foreword that summarizes the issue:

Canada’s housing crisis is worsening dramatically. Millions of people – particularly those with the lowest incomes – are facing rapidly rising housing costs, driven significantly by an extreme lack of supply of the right types of rental housing. This is driving a wave of new homelessness, eating up increasing percentages of workers’ incomes and causing untold stress and suffering. The Government of Canada has set a range of ambitious targets to realize the Right to Housing, address housing affordability and end homelessness, but we are currently sliding backwards.

Meanwhile many new market-based rental projects are stalled as a result of dramatically increased interest rates, high government taxes fees and charges, insurance premiums, and higher production input costs.

This comes within the context of record population growth. Population growth and immigration are essential to our country’s economic and cultural prosperity, but our housing system is failing people who have a right to housing, no matter how long they have been here.

On October 19, 2023, Max Bell Foundation hosted a panel presentation in Vancouver called Shelter and the Storm: Canada’s Housing Crisis. Moderated by Andrea Reimer, panelists Jill Atkey and Mike Moffat tackled this complex problem head on.

Getting to solutions requires understanding the root causes of the problem. The panelists named several, including sharp declines in government funding and tax incentives for non-market rental housing, policies oriented to reducing urban sprawl, municipal zoning that favours single family dwellings, significantly increased immigration, and monetary policy that has fuelled an already tight housing market. Adding to the challenge is that these policies have generally been enacted in isolation, without regard to how they would interact in ways that contribute to an inadequate supply of affordable rental housing stock.

The resulting affordability crisis is having ripple effects across the economy, with the worst impacts felt by those with the fewest resources.

What should be done? Our superb presenters discussed a number of potential solutions, discarding some as impractical, and identifying others that have real promise. Click the link below to watch the presentation and hear what they had to say.

To watch the full event click here.

Photo credit – Conor Provenzano