A new report says single mothers, Indigenous renter households, new immigrants, Canadians under the age of 30, and seniors are all facing higher levels of overspending on rental housing than the Canadian average.

The information comes from the 2019 Canadian Rental Housing Index, a database of rental housing statistics released by a national partnership of housing associations, credit unions and municipal associations, including the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation. The index uses data from the 2016 long-form census and examines rental housing affordability and overcrowding of various demographic groups for over 800 municipalities and regions across Canada, as well as all 338 federal electoral districts.

The data show that half of single-mother renter households in Canada are spending over the recommended affordability benchmark of 30 per cent of income, while almost one in four (22 per cent) are in a crisis level of spending. British Columbia and Saskatchewan are the hardest hit, with 64 per cent and 61 per cent of single mother-renter households spending over the affordability benchmark, respectively, says the report.

The index shows higher proportions of overspending and overcrowding among Indigenous-led renter households. In Saskatoon, 54 per cent of Indigenous renter households spend over the affordability benchmark, compared to 42 per cent for non-Indigenous renter households, says the report. In Nunavut, 43 per cent of Indigenous-led renter households are in an overcrowding situation compared to just six per cent reported by non-Indigenous renter households.

“The data released today confirms what we have been telling our government for years – that Indigenous families and individuals are disproportionately struggling to pay the rent. This comes at a time when the federal government is planning to decrease investment in urban and rural Indigenous housing. Whoever forms the next government needs to fix this inequity,” says Margaret Pfoh, CEO of the Aboriginal Housing Management Association.

The report says of the nearly quarter-million immigrant renter households that landed in Canada between 2011-2016, 24 per cent are at a crisis level of spending, and one in three are overcrowded, which is more than triple the Canadian average.

“The data clearly demonstrates that our political leaders have not been able to find or implement meaningful solutions to the affordable housing crisis, and Ontario now has the dubious honour of being harder hit than anywhere else in the country,” says Marlene Coffey, executive director of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association.

The index shows that renters under the age of 30 and seniors are more likely to live in unaffordable conditions. Twenty-three per cent of young renter households are at a crisis level of spending, and over half of senior-led renter households spend over the recommended benchmark of 30 per cent.

“For a long time, the conversation around rental housing affordability in Canada has focused on the population as a whole, but the numbers clearly show several key, vulnerable groups are bearing the brunt of this crisis,” said Jeff Morrison, executive director of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association. “We very much hope that those seeking office in this election and Canadian voters will use this opportunity to push for more immediate and substantial action on this critical issue.”

Out of the top 20 federal ridings with the worst affordability challenges, the index finds 11 of them are in Ontario while six are in British Columbia. Willowdale, in Toronto, takes the title as the federal riding with the highest proportion of renter households dealing with a crisis level of spending on rent. In that riding, 59 per cent of all renter households spend 30 per cent or more of their income on housing, while 39 per cent allocate half or more. Neighbouring GTA ridings of Thornhill and Richmond Hill are not much better, placing second and third most unaffordable in the country.

In B.C., the ridings of Vancouver Quadra and Richmond Centre are the most unaffordable in that province, as well as being among the top 10 most unaffordable ridings in Canada. Winnipeg South, Halifax and Ville-Marie – Le Sud-Ouest – Ile-des-Soeurs in Quebec round out the top 20.


      • I think this boils down to what the definition of an immigrant is. I am immigrant. Been here for 43 years. I believe the word “immigrant” is often conflated with refugees, asylum seekers and family reunification.

  1. Could you provide a source that new immigrants are struggling with rental rates ? New immigrants have some very stringent rules as to self sufficiency. Unless (once again) new immigrants are lumped in with other newcomers to Canada like refugees and/or asylum seekers. To many people who it’s “all the same” but it is absolutely not.

  2. Using Vancouver Quadra in that survey does not make any sense. It is an area of above average value in personal residences and has many waterfront and ocean view homes. Of course rents are going to be higher. There is always going to be a neighbourhood that is less affordable. So what.

    • Frank, I think you misunderstand the data being presented. All neighbourhoods with sufficient data were examined. Quadra happened to be one of the least affordable and therefore was included in the infographic. Also, rental rates are not a force of nature and can be regulated to ensure that extortionate and unethical prices are not being charged. The answer to “so what” is just because there will be someone willing to pay $2000 on an apartment and skip a couple meals a day doesn’t make it ethical to charge that much, nor should it be legal. Neighbourhoods shouldn’t be allowed to be exclusive clubs. There should be affordable housing quotas for “exclusive” and “trendy” neighbourhoods especially to decrease economic segregation (as well as racial segregation due to systematic discrimination and generational poverty.)

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