Housing in Canada works as a continuum. Those who are in core housing need (like emergency shelters) are on one end, and those who can purchase market-rate housing (or rent if they prefer) are on the other.

It looks like this:

Canadians Want to Own their Homes

About 94% of Canadians either live in a home they’ve purchased or are able to rent without government subsidies. And 4 out of 5 people who are currently renting want to own.

What Happens When Buyers Can’t Buy?

Some 80% of rental units that become available each year come from people who become homeowners. When people are locked out of homeownership, they have to keep renting. This drives up demand for rentals, reduces availability, and results in the cost of rent going up. When renting becomes too expensive, the demand for subsidized housing increases, fewer people in need can be properly housed, and people in core housing need end up in emergency shelters.

Right now, the housing continuum is stalled. Although building more social housing can help some, it can’t solve the problem. We can’t build our way out of this using tax dollars; it will cost too much, and demand will continue to escalate unless we get the full continuum working again.

What Needs to Happen?

We need to get the housing continuum moving again by unlocking the door to homeownership by improving affordability, through both demand and supply measures. Then public resources can be properly allocated for those who are truly in core housing need.