Building Magazine


New report says provinces most suited to address homelessness

The Canada West Foundation (CWF) has released a report titled ‘A Roof Over Our Heads 2008’ that attempts to clarify the quagmire that is affordable housing in Canada.

“Ensuring that every Canadian has an affordable and decent place to live should not be hampered by confusion over whether it is municipalities, provinces or the federal government that should be responsible,” said CWF director of research Robert Roach. “This confusion can lead to a game of hot potato among governments that reduces affordability as costs are downloaded to cities, developers, homebuyers and renters.”

The report points out that the recent growth in Canada’s homeless population is directly linked to people’s inability to afford housing, replacing substance abuse and mental illness as the most cited reason for being homeless.

It also rejects the idea that a new national housing strategy is required to address the issue in favour of a decentralized approach where provinces take the lead.

“While it is tempting to have municipalities and the federal government step in to fill policy gaps left open by provincial governments, this is not the best solution in the long-tem as it blurs accountability and lets provincial governments off the hook,” adds Roach.

The report argues that local governments do not have the revenue capacity to deal with housing and homelessness and that the federal government is too far removed from local intricacies to develop effective programs.

Other key findings in the report are:

a quarter of Canadian households spent more on shelter in 2006 than the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s affordability benchmark of 30 per cent of gross income
40 per cent of renters are spending above the benchmark compared to 18 per cent of homeowners
Canadians who make the least money are the most likely to be spending above the affordability benchmark; 58 per cent of Canadians in the bottom income quintile spent more than 30 per cent of their gross income on shelter in 2004
the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $648 in 2000 compared to $782 today; average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Alberta increased from $651 in 2000 to a nation-leading $1,049 in 2008

The report is part of CWF’s Western Cities Project and can be downloaded from their website or at

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