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Housing need stable in Canada, 1.7 million Canadian households affected

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Housing need stable in Canada, 1.7 million Canadian households affected

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, in collaboration with Statistics Canada, is releasing today the core housing need figures from the 2016 Census. Data indicate that the proportion of Canadian households in housing need has remained stable since 2006. In 2016, the rate of core housing need in Canada stood at 12.7%, representing 1.7M households.

Statistics Canada’s data tables on core housing need

Core housing need is the indicator used in Canada1 to identify households not living in, and not able to access, acceptable housing. It describes households living in dwellings considered inadequate in condition, not suitable in size, and unaffordable.

  • Housing is adequate when it does not require major repairs according to its residents.
  • Housing is suitable when it has enough bedrooms for the size and make-up of resident households, according to the National Occupancy Standard (NOS)2.
  • Housing is deemed affordable when its shelter costs3 represent less than 30 per cent of before-tax household income.

A household is in core housing need if its housing is unsuitable, inadequate or unaffordable, and if its income is such that it cannot afford alternative4 housing in the local market.

Table 1: Number and proportion of households in core housing need, Canada, Provinces and territories5 (Source: Census 2006, 2016, NHS 2011)

While the proportion of Canadian households living in unacceptable housing conditions has remained stable over the last ten years, different trends exist among provinces and territories. Between 2011 and 2016, housing conditions have worsened in the Prairies region and Ontario, and improved in British Columbia, Quebec and most of the Atlantic region. Core housing need was prevalent in the territories; the rate in Nunavut remained the highest in the country at 36.5%.

The proportion of Ontarian households with unacceptable housing has significantly increased; close to 1 in 7 households were in core housing need in 2016, an increase of 130,000 households in absolute numbers compared to 2011. The proportion of households in core housing need also rose in Manitoba, reaching 11.4%. Even with a decrease since 2011, the core housing need rate in British Columbia remained one of the highest in Canada, at 14.9%. The situation for Quebec households has improved by the largest proportion among provinces, bringing the overall rate to a historical low of 9.0%, an absolute reduction of more than 40,000 households compared to 2011.

Table 2: Dimensions of Housing Need by Tenure in 2016 (Source: Census 2016)

Affordability, especially for renters, remained a key challenge for Canadians. Census data indicate that, except for Alberta, the provinces that experienced an increase in core housing need also saw average shelter costs grow faster than average incomes.

Table 3: Top-10 Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) with the highest proportion of core housing need in 2016, by tenure

Close to 1 in 5 households in Toronto lived in core housing need, ranking as the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) with the highest incidence in Canada. 36.3% of renter households in Toronto were in core housing need in 2016. Except for Vancouver and Victoria, all of the other CMAs with the highest incidence of core housing need were located in Ontario.

Additional core housing need visualization tools are available on Statistics Canada’s Census Program Data Viewer. CMHC will continue to release detailed data tables and analysis as they become available in the coming weeks and months.

Visualize Statistics Canada’s core housing need data

 1 The universe of households tested for core housing need includes only private non-farm, non-band, non-reserve households with income greater than zero and shelter-cost-to-income ratio (STIR) less than 100%.

2 The NOS establishes that enough bedrooms consists in one bedroom for each cohabiting adult couple; unattached household member 18 years of age and older; same-sex pair of children under age 18; and additional boy or girl in the family, unless there are two opposite sex children under 5 years of age, in which case they are expected to share a bedroom. A household of one individual can occupy a bachelor unit (i.e. a unit with no bedroom).

3 For renters, shelter costs include rent and any payment in electricity, fuel, water, and other municipal services. For home owners, shelter costs include mortgage payments (principal and interests), property taxes and any condominium fees, along with payment for electricity, fuel, water and other municipal services.

4 The concept of alternative housing is defined as median local shelter cost, based rent levels and utilities for housing meeting the three standards, representing 30 per cent of the household’s before-tax income.

5 CMHC and Statistics Canada use different definitions of on-reserve (where on-reserve households are not examined for core housing need). As a result, historic household counts in Yukon and Saskatchewan will differ slightly between CMHC and Statistics Canada, where the difference in on-reserve counts occur.

More information on concepts and Census variables is available in Statistic Canada’s Census dictionary.