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No cookie-cutter solution to Canadian rental affordability: economist

Last Updated Oct 30, 2018 at 12:22 pm MDT

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Summary

An economist says there's no one way to solve rental affordability issues in Canada

According to CMHC data, an economist says Canada's rental markets vary by region

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) –┬áThere’s no nation-wide rental housing affordability crisis, according to economists at the University of Calgary, who say Ottawa should drop the one-size-fits-all approach to the issue and opt for tailored solutions.

Looking at rental housing data from the Canadian Mortage and Housing Corporation, Professor Ron Kneebone says Canada’s housing market varies per region and affordability issues are hitting western Canada and Ontario much harder than Quebec and the Maritimes.

“If it’s east of Toronto, there really is no affordable housing crisis and the government shouldn’t be wasting money on providing income or housing supports in province’s like Quebec of the Atlantic provinces. They should dedicate all that money in Ontario and out west,” economics professor Ron Kneebone said.

In Vancouver, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in October 2017 was $1,223, the highest in Canada, compared to the lowest of $623 in Saint John, NFL. The report, with the exception of Halifax, shows a large difference between eastern and western Canada.

Social Policy Trends - Canada Rents - October 2018

The data, according to the report, shows people typically pay higher rents in more densely populated cities, with the exception of Montreal.

“There’s a cultural norm in Quebec that renting is not viewed as something usual, whereas in other parts of the country, a lot of families aspire to having a house in the suburbs. Quebec also has a pretty stringent rent control system in place that keeps housing costs down,” he said adding Quebec also increases its social support payments to keep up with rental costs.

Quebec also received $11.732 billion in equalization payments in 2017.

“The government will have a certain limited amount of money to invest in this problem and if they are using it to deal with housing affordability in Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces, then they are just wasting money,” he said.

Although the report does not make specific policy suggestions or say whether the federal government should act at all, Kneebone says if Ottawa wants to put tax money towards housing, it should focus on rental prices and availability in affected areas.

Federal government won’t play favourites with affordable housing

Ottawa won’t be leaving any provinces out of its housing strategy. That’s coming from the federal social services minister, in response to the report.

Jean-Yves Duclos said Ottawa’s policies and funding won’t ignore parts of the country. “It’s true that the context is different, but the needs are found everywhere.”

“We need to partner with local organizations, municipalities and provinces to make those investments as effective as they can be. If we look at the national housing strategy, how it works — that’s exactly what it does. It aligns the investments with the specific conditions and needs of communities.

He said policies will still have some flexibility depending on where they are applied.