Canadians Overwhelmingly Support the Construction of Affordable Homes. So, Why Isn’t It Happening?

Toronto homeless encampment

There’s no denying that the recent pandemic has changed the world in ways many might not have imagined. In Canada, one of the biggest downfalls of the international health crisis and its subsequent shutdowns was massive inflation in housing prices. In November of 2021, the Canadian housing market hit historic highs, with the average home now costing a whopping $720,850, which is incidentally the highest number on record.

While this emerging data implicate disturbing future trends, some experts claim Canada has been in a housing crisis for half a century.

According to Financial Post, “supply-side failures” are primarily to blame for the everlasting shortage of affordable homes nationwide. However, before the most recent economic hardship (i.e., the COVID-19 pandemic), Canada was able to combat inflated housing prices with declining interest rates. In the aftermath of international tragedy, that appears to no longer be the case.

What we are seeing instead is a massive uptick in homelessness. One Nanos survey titled “The Recovery for All Report” suggests there could be as many as 1.6 million Canadians from this post-modern era who have personally experienced the horrors of homelessness at some point in their lives.

Initially published by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, this report features research courtesy of Steve Pomeroy. Possessing 35 years of experience in policy research and strategic analysis, Pomeroy currently serves as Executive Advisor and Industry professor at the Canadian Housing Evidence Collaborative.

This particular study, which polled 1,094 Canadian adults, revealed:

  • 25% of renters had been rendered homeless at some point in their lives
  • 31% of all participants witnessed either a friend or relative sink into the desolate state of homelessness

These statistics were not all as disenchanting as they initially appeared. In fact, the poll proves that most Canadians are aware of the housing crisis and overwhelmingly support the mass construction of affordable homes.

According to this Analytical Data, Approximately 8 out of 10 Canadians Support Investing in the Construction of New, Affordable Homes.

These numbers prove once and for all that homelessness is unique. The prospect of NIMBYism in opposing affordable housing construction is not nearly as prominent in Canada as it is elsewhere. Here, we find that most residents see homelessness as an urgent problem requiring immediate rectification.

Furthermore, most residents see building affordable homes as a critical component in ending homelessness once and for all. Yet, we still see a severe lack of development. Canada’s current affordable housing deficit reflects a shortage of approximately 1.8 million homes.

So, Why Aren’t Affordable Housing Units Flooding the Canadian Marketplace Already?

Developers don’t seem to be responding to the people’s requests across the country. By their calculations, the construction of affordable detached single-family dwelling spaces drastically decreased by five percentage points in just this past year, leaving the countryside a jigsaw puzzle of rental spaces and scattered overpriced accommodations.

The unspoken truth is that homeownership is increasingly becoming a luxury most Canadians won’t be able to afford. For many, that reality has already touched down. But, in an atmosphere where 25% of renters report having experienced homelessness firsthand, is renting the Canadian dream even possible?

It’s clear that other hurdles exist, such as dwindling land supply and prioritizing luxury condo construction. Abe Oudshoorn wisely points out that the scale of affordability is being measured not by income but by “rapidly escalating market rents,” leaving low and average wage workers in a lurch. Adding to this is are:

  • economic hardships fueled by the pandemic
  • increased demand for housing across the board, and
  • a shift in housing market buyer preferences

The construction of affordable homes is seriously lacking even in the face of overwhelming support for such programs. But, there is another obstacle worth reviewing. It is the erosion of affordable homes that already exist on the market.

In the same study cited above, Pomeroy also notes that between 2011 and 2016, Canada lost 320,000 affordable housing units to for-profit investment trusts and capital funds. This kind of affordable housing erosion can be equally detrimental, especially when combined with a halt in construction.

Canada’s Looming Homeless Crisis Could be Resolved

Data and statistics can be fickle things. What’s important to remember is that real people are behind these numbers. They are just as human and deserving of a stable place to live as everyone else on the planet.

As homelessness in Canada continues to escalate, abhorrent shelter conditions persist, life expectancies are dashed, and so are dreams.

The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness proclaims Canada’s homeless crisis could be resolved in under a decade. To reach this goal, officials must pledge to construct more affordable housing units and strictly adhere to a point system that prioritizes the reduction of inflow into the homeless service system and the advancement of outflow into permanent housing solutions.

You’ve already expressed your support in the prospect of constructing more affordable homes. If you aspire to end homelessness and the housing crisis as quickly as possible, contact your local legislators and ask them why nobody’s listening.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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