Housing affordability in Canada is a significant and growing problem.  Whether you can afford your ‘shelter’ is routinely measured using an affordability standard set out by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).  Affordable Housing is adequate shelter that does not exceed 30% of household income.  This affordability threshold is used as a guideline for low and moderate income households in determining how much of their gross income should be directed to shelter costs, while leaving enough for food, transportation, taxes, clothes and other necessities. 

For renters, shelter costs refer to rent plus utilities.  For homeowners, shelter costs refer to mortgage payments, condo fees, property tax and utilities.

Social housing is a subset of affordable housing, where low or very low income households not only do not meet the 30% affordability threshold but can’t afford to pay a regular market rent.  They require assistance to stay housed, usually through a rent subsidy, and live in buildings that receive government support.

Here are some of the key statistics that illustrate why ‘housing for all’ is needed in Canada.

Housing costs more than people can afford:

  • 1/4 of Canadian households are spending 30% or more of their total income on shelter, exceeding the affordability threshold set by CMHC.
  • Renters and owners also experienced housing affordability challenges differently, with 40% of renters paying 30% or more of their total income towards shelter costs, compared with 18.5% of owner households.
  • Among all renters in Canada, 20 % are dedicating more than 50 %, or half, of their gross income to shelter costs.  This places individuals and families at a high risk of falling into homelessness and despair. 
  • Some types of households are more at risk than others.  For example, 44% of lone parents who rent their house or apartment paid too much on rent, as did almost one third of lone parents who owned their home. 
  • There isn’t enough social housing for people who can’t afford housing in the private market.  For example:
    • In Ontario, 158,445 households were waiting for social housing in 2013, including almost 72,700 in Toronto.
    • In Nova Scotia, 4,000 households were waiting for social housing in 2013
    • In the City of Calgary, 3,000 households are currently waiting for social housing





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