The housing crisis in Canada has been decades of policy failures in the making arguably starting in the 90s when the federal government stopped building housing for people. Now, the housing crisis has grown to the point where one of Canada’s largest banks is calling for socialized housing to be built again. This means building house for people who are so priced out of the market that renting is hard for them due to the downward pressures from wealthy home buyers.The bank also calls for other measures to be taken, as with most things, there isn’t one simple solution.
There is a case to critically consider next-best approach(es) to non-market housing across the country. There are many learnings to be leveraged from crowding private capital into affordable housing and there is still much more to be done in that ‘middle market’. This is essential but insufficient. The largely scathing OAG report on basic access to housing suggests we have neither adequate governance frameworks nor the tools at present to address the magnitude of the challenges at the acute end of the housing continuum.
Canada needs a more ambitious, urgent and well-resourced strategy to expand its social housing infrastructure. Aims to double the stock of social housing across the country could be a start. This would bring Canada just in line with OECD (and G7) averages, but well- below some European and Nordic markets. There is no particular magic behind this number: bringing the stock to 1.3 mn dwellings would not fully close gaps. But it signals far more ambition than the 150 k incremental units targeted under the National Housing Strategy with the bulk of its efforts focused on keeping the current count whole.