3 million more Canadians in housing need than CMHC estimates suggest: report

Click to play video: 'City of Edmonton considers incentives for office conversions to affordable housing'
City of Edmonton considers incentives for office conversions to affordable housing
WATCH ABOVE: City of Edmonton considers incentives for office conversions to affordable housing – Oct 31, 2023

Canada’s estimates for the number of people in need of affordable housing are off by millions, a new report from the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate (OFHA) says.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) says 1.4 million households in Canada don’t have access to quality housing.

In contrast, the independent watchdog’s report, titled “A human rights-based calculation of Canada’s housing supply shortage” and published Thursday, estimates that Canada is short 4.4 million homes that are affordable to people in housing need.

The OFHA report, produced by housing policy expert Carolyn Whitzman, projects a deficit of three million homes for low- and very low-income households in housing need that can only afford less than $1,050 per month, and a further 1.4 million missing homes for moderate- and median-income households in housing need.

The report says CMHC’s method takes into account housing demand, not housing need.

Story continues below advertisement

“It conflates demand for home ownership, which may be for speculative or investment purposes, with housing need. And perhaps most tellingly, it ignores the intent of both the National Housing Strategy and the National Housing Strategy Act, which is to focus on the housing needs of those who are most marginalized,” it reads.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

The OFHA report includes the housing needs of students, those who are homeless and people living in congregate housing – such as long-term care or supportive housing for people with disabilities – to the census count of people in “core housing need.”

The CMHC projects that Canada will need to build an additional 3.45 million homes, over and above the base level of 2.2 million homes, by 2030. The OFHA report said 9.6 million homes will have to be built over the next 10 years, with a third of this supply dedicated to very low- to moderate-income households.

“Canada needs a long-term plan to bridge the gap in its affordable housing supply. It must include significant, sustained government investment in non-market housing – such as cooperative, non-profit, and public housing. The ultimate goal is a sustainable housing system. The key ingredient to get there is a human rights approach that puts people first, and programs that respond to their needs,” Marie-Josée Houle, the head of the OFHA, said in a statement.

Click to play video: 'University student housing needs to take centre stage, say advocates'
University student housing needs to take centre stage, say advocates

Whitzman said that while the CMHC looks at middle-class home ownership, the OFHA report she prepared looks at other groups as well, particularly students and renters.

Story continues below advertisement

“Students actually exist, homeless people actually exist, people in shared housing actually exist, but they’re not counted in housing need,” she told Global News.

“So, what the federal housing advocate asked me to do, because it’s a human rights-based report, is to start counting those people, to start looking at what they can afford and to start looking at what some of the targets might be if you started including those people who previously haven’t been counted.”

Sponsored content