MONTREAL ― Four decades of negligible rental housing construction is catching up to Canada’s cities, particularly those with rapid population growth.
Nearly one in 10 Canadian households that rent on the open market are suffering from overcrowding, Statistics Canada reported in the first batch of data from its Canadian Housing Survey.
This is the first time StatCan has run this survey, so there is no earlier data that would allow us to see whether the problem is intensifying.
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But given Canadian housing affordability has severely eroded over the past decade, and that rents have been rising faster than incomes in most cities in recent years, it’s a near-certain bet the problem is getting worse.
In Toronto, 20 per cent of renters on the open market ― or 133,000 households ― are experiencing overcrowding, the agency’s data shows. The situation is slightly less intense among renters in social or affordable housing, with 16.2 per cent suffering from overcrowding.
Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Vancouver also showed elevated levels of overcrowding.
The experts say there are a number of reasons why rental housing in Canada is becoming less affordable. One is that rising house prices have forced people to stay in rental housing longer, adding to demand for apartments.
Another reason is that governments stopped heavily subsidizing the construction of rental housing in the 1970s and 1980s, and the supply of new purpose-built apartments has been a trickle ever since.
Some cities have recently taken steps to increase rental construction, such as Vancouver, which is looking at introducing new rules that will cut construction approval times and allow for more dense construction away from major boulevards.
Rising rents have convinced some developers to start building rental housing, and the supply under construction has doubled in the past five years. But many experts say the supply of new rental housing is still below what’s needed to meet demand.