Media release

New report calls for modernizing key indicator of housing need

Published on 07/03/2023

The Maytree report released today, “Modernizing core housing need: Why the key indicator in Canadian housing policy needs a refresh,” argues that the key indicator upon which Canada builds its housing policy does not provide an accurate picture of—and likely underestimates the rate of—housing need in this country.

Core housing need refers to whether one’s housing falls below at least one of the thresholds for adequacy, affordability, or suitability, and households can’t access an acceptable alternative in their area.

Governments and its agencies use this indicator to measure how many people need better housing and also to determine eligibility for many publicly funded housing supports. It’s even one of the main ways the federal government tracks the progress of its $80-billion+ housing initiatives under the National Housing Strategy.

“Core housing need is used by governments in many policies and programs,” says Sam DiBellonia, Maytree Policy Lead and the report’s co-author. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t capture the full picture. Housing need is greater than what the measure tells us, so it could use an update.”

In its current form, the report finds that core housing need obscures the fact that certain groups, such as single households, are likely to face much greater housing need than others. It also underestimates the overall incidence of core housing need by excluding from its count people experiencing homelessness, people living in rooming houses, on-reserve communities, households whose costs are paid through band housing arrangements, and households that include students.

To ensure that housing policy efforts and programs address Canada’s housing crisis—and the needs of those who are most impacted—core housing need requires a refresh.

Based on best practices from other jurisdictions, international human rights standards, and poverty measures, the report makes three recommendations to the federal government to modernize the indicator:

  1. Conduct a formal evaluation of the definition, measurement, and use of core housing need in policy;
  2. Bring existing and new indicators to the forefront that measure the housing challenges of those most likely to experience housing and income insecurity; and
  3. Increase accountability by identifying one department to lead and coordinate housing policy efforts both within and across government.

Download the full report and the executive summary.