Publications, opinions, and speeches


Rental housing in Canada’s cities: challenges and responses

Published on 09/08/2019

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This paper, prepared by Steve Pomeroy and Duncan Maclennan for the second convening of the Urban Project (UP), focuses on the growing and connected affordability pressures in the rental sector.

The paper provides a historical overview of rental housing policy in Canada and charts changes in rental housing construction starts in major Canadian cities over the last few decades. It outlines a number of potential mechanisms that cities could draw on to expand the production of affordable rental housing, as well as to address the critical issue of the erosion of the existing affordable rental stock. In doing so, it also considers the key barriers and opportunities associated with each approach, and points to where different orders of government and other actors hold essential levers.

Overall, the paper argues that housing must be seen as essential economic infrastructure and that lasting systematic solutions must extend beyond non-market social housing.

This paper was developed to guide discussion at the UP “Housing Affordability: A Focus on Rental Housing” event on May 2, 2019, in Vancouver. Hosted by Mayor Kennedy Stewart, the event saw participants from across Canada share ideas on “what works,” fill knowledge gaps, and identify opportunities to deliver more affordable rental housing (market and non-market).

Participants included mayors from ten big cities, prominent housing academics, and senior leaders from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Infrastructure Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada, BC Housing, non-profit housing organizations, private development firms, and industry and community associations.

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Cities and communities, Housing and homelessness


The paper focuses on the growing and connected affordability pressures in the rental sector.