The Housing Crisis

A recent KPMG survey found that an impressive 94% of respondents agreed that high housing costs and a lack of supply are the top risk to the economy in Canada. The respondents were business owners or executive-level decision makers. About a third of those interviewed were the leaders of companies with revenue over $500 million, about half have revenue between $100 million and $500 million.

Respondents agree with our clients: we are in a housing crisis.

Housing issues are forcing businesses to boost pay to better attract talent and budget for higher labour costs. Businesses need to pay more to enable their workers to absorb these higher costs of living. The need to pay more not only directly affects business finances, but is also making it harder to deal with inflation. In fact, higher housing costs are themselves a big contributor to inflation.

Our legal clinic serves people with the lowest incomes. We see on a daily basis the effects of this crisis on our clients when they contact us for advice about their housing problems. The prospect of losing your home is terrifying to tenants, especially those who have lived in their apartments for many years. “I won’t be able to find another place for this rent anywhere,” they say. And they didn’t have to do anything wrong to be in this predicament – we see many cases where tenants receive a notice that their building is being renovated or demolished. They can also be served with another type of “no-fault” eviction notice when the landlord claims that they want to move in or put a family member in the apartment. There has been an increase in N12s, N13s and demovictions the past several years, significantly decreasing affordable units in our housing stock.

Being able to own a home has proven to be unattainable, even for those with steady incomes. For low income tenants, the stakes are higher. It means that they may not be able to afford a new place to live if evicted and they can become homeless at any given moment.

Businesses have been raising the alarm for some time about how this crisis has become the biggest risk to the economy. Maybe those powerful actors who don’t normally turn their attention to the issue of affordable housing will now be motivated to engage in a comprehensive approach to the problem.

The federal government recently announced new initiatives to help tenants. They include:

  • Launching a new $15 million Tenant Protection Fund
  • Creating a new Canadian Renters’ Bill of Rights
  • Making sure renters get credit for on-time rent payments

You can read the full news release here. We usually do not see such measures for tenants coming from the federal government. Again, the worsening housing crisis has cascading impacts and we are seeing it on the radar of different actors.

We are unsure if these new measures will actually benefit tenants, and many advocates have concerns. But we hope to see tenant issues being discussed at all levels of government and we will continue to fight for better protections.