The submissions we receive help us identify emerging housing issues in Canada. They help to paint a clear picture of the priority systemic issues the Advocate can push for action on, and where Canada must do better.
The data in this section is based only on the submissions we received. The numbers do not represent a complete statistical picture of all housing or homelessness issues in Canada. These figures are also not representative of the total occurrences of these experiences in the general population.
Here are the highlights for 2022–2023.
What we heard about unaffordable housing and problems with finding housing
We learned that 77 percent of submissions described current or past issues with unaffordable housing, and 61 percent spoke of problems with finding housing.
Many submissions in these categories described having to make significant sacrifices and forgo basic needs in order to afford rent. Many also described living in unsuitable housing, and how housing choice and mobility are limited due to a lack of affordable rental stock and rapidly rising rents.
Such constraints are only further exacerbated by stagnant income assistance and disability rates, forcing people to stay in inadequate and, at times, unsafe housing. Some respondents mentioned that the scarcity of affordable housing enables discrimination of renters in their housing search by landlords.
Of the respondents who answered income and housing cost questions in the submission tool, 72 percent report spending above 30 percent of their income on housing, which is above Canada’s benchmark for affordability.
What we heard about the lack of justice for tenants facing evictions
We heard that 30 percent of submissions describe currently or previously facing eviction, foreclosure, or otherwise losing housing.
Of those who had experienced foreclosure, this was often related to a loss of income during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and resulted in the respondents entering the rental market again.
Some of the respondents who had been evicted shared that their landlords refused to sign leases or denied them tenancy rights. While formal eviction notices either fell under the auspices of landlord use or renoviction or demoviction, a subset of these notices were given in bad faith. For example, in British Columbia where recent legislation makes renovictions administratively cumbersome, respondents reported being evicted so the landlord’s family could occupy the unit, when in fact the landlord intended to renovate and increase the rent.
Many submissions described the period leading up to eviction as involving conflict or harassment from the landlord.
For those who have attempted to access legal remedies through provincial residential tenancy boards, the proceedings were reported to be burdensome and drawn out.
What we heard about housing being unsuitable for people with disabilities
We found that 57 percent of submissions were from households that include a member who identifies as a person with a disability under the Accessible Canada Act.
The Act defines disability as “any impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment—or a functional limitation—whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature, or evident or not, that, in interaction with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.”
These households face increased barriers to finding suitable housing for their disabilities and face increased discrimination when looking for housing.
We received six submissions from organizations who focus on this issue, including one from the Accessible Housing Network. The Network is advocating for mandatory universal design principles to be incorporated into every unit of new multi-unit residential buildings. They are urging that the National Building Code be updated so that all Canadians have access to the housing they need.
Another submission from Alberta Health Services identified the issue of accessible housing being mainly available for people willing to live on their own, primarily in one-bedroom accommodations. This results in families having to live separately in different households in order to have accessible housing.
British Columbia Complex Kids also made a submission on the struggle of parents to support children with disabilities. They noted the limited provincial programs and tax credit that support home adaptations. On a similar note, Decoding Dyslexia Ontario speaks to the lack of public services to identify dyslexia at an early stage. The struggle is not only strictly educational—it is closely linked to children’s future ability to access and afford housing.
Finally, a submission received from the Environmental Health Association of Québec highlighted that the vast majority of accommodations are not adapted for people who suffer from environmental sensitivities or multiple chemical sensitivities (ES/MCS).
What we heard about insecure housing, particularly for women and gender diverse people
We learned that 37 percent of individual submitters have been experiencing issues with their landlord, building manager, roommates, or neighbours.
Women and gender diverse people are particularly affected by abusive property owners and building managers.
Some of the issues they encountered included: landlords not making needed repairs or maintenance; threatening eviction; entering the apartment without permission; treating tenants badly on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability; charging illegal fees and rent increases; harassment and sexual harassment of tenants; or demands for sex in exchange for housing.
We received nine submissions from women-led organizations for women’s rights to housing. We initiated engagement work with the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network (WNHHN) and the National Indigenous Housing Network (NIHN, formerly the National Indigenous Feminist Housing Working Group) who highlighted the systemic housing issues facing women, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse people, with a particular focus on Indigenous women.
- Submission — The Crisis Ends With Us: Request for a Review into the Systemic Denial of the Equal Right to Housing of Women and Gender-Diverse People in Canada (WNHHN)In their submission, the WNHHN explains that across Canada, many women, girls, and gender-diverse people live in insecure or unsafe housing—or are made homeless—due to deliberate policy choices. They disproportionately live in core housing need, head single-parent households, and bear the burden of childcare, putting them at risk of eviction when faced with the impossible choice of paying the rent or feeding their children. There is a severe lack of affordable and appropriate housing that meets their diverse needs.This affordable housing crisis is exacerbated by systemic issues that keep women trapped in poverty and struggling to access housing in overheated rental markets. In their submission, the WNHHN argues that the Canadian Government’s failure to adequately address housing need and homelessness has manufactured a national human rights crisis for marginalized women and gender-diverse people. With few housing options and overwhelmed emergency shelters, many women rely on informal networks or dangerous survival strategies to meet their basic needs. The need to remain in situations of hidden homelessness not only places them at risk of exploitation and abuse, it also renders their needs invisible within mainstream systems and policy development.
- Submission — Homeless on Homelands: Upholding Housing as a Human Right for Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit and Gender-Diverse People (NIHN)In its submission, the NIHN declares that Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and gender-diverse people are experiencing some of the most egregious right to housing violations across Canada. They are over-represented in almost all aspects of housing insecurity, homelessness, and poverty, and are disproportionately impacted by violence and trauma linked to precarious living situations. Indigenous peoples – First Nations, Inuit, and Métis – continue to navigate and survive violent systems of institutionalization and exclusion, practicing their cultures through land and water stewardship and utilizing mechanisms like international and national human rights covenants and declarations to assert their rights.
A submission from la Table des Groupes de Femmes de Montréal reports how the current housing crisis severely impacts women, whose housing needs and problems have grown. The pandemic trapped many women in abusive situations, disrupted the strategies of organizations who support people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and hindered access to support resources.
The shortage of shelter spaces for women has intensified. Many must now turn to resources that do not meet their needs, or remain in unsafe environments.
The context of the pandemic makes it even more difficult for community workers to reach women. The sector itself was also hard hit by the pandemic, and many non-profit groups struggled to maintain their existing services and working conditions.
The groups report barriers to access and many sources of exclusion in social, transitional and emergency housing resources. These include women’s lack of knowledge of existing and available housing, cumbersome eligibility criteria and regulations, bureaucratic processes, and a lack of resources for women with complex life situations.
Recommendations VI – Women and gender diverse people
- Take urgent action to implement the Calls for Justice made by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action as they relate to access to safe, affordable and adequate housing for First Nations, Inuit and Métis women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse people.
- Ensure that definitions of homelessness for the purposes of defining federal, provincial, territorial and policies and programs reflect the distinct experiences of homelessness among women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse people, particularly those who are Indigenous.
Detailed recommendations are available in Annex A.
What we heard about homelessness or people not having their own place
Endless waiting lists are a testament to the lack of affordable housing. This shortage fuels the overcrowding of transitional housing and accommodation resources.
One in three individual submitters shared they have been experiencing issues with waiting lists for housing or shelters. We heard that the inaccessibility of shelter spaces is driving many people to live in tents or other forms of shelter for places to stay and to sleep. The Advocate’s review of homeless encampments is based on a submission from Montreal highlighting how people living in encampments face significantly greater insecurity and threats to their health and human rights.
We also learned that half of the individuals who made a submission experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.
One in ten individual submitters were involved in the child welfare system or residential school system as a child or youth. Of these, the vast majority had experienced homelessness at one point in their lives. Some were not even 16 years old when they became homeless for the first time, and half became homeless for the first between 16 and 29 years old.
Some of the causes for experiencing homelessness at a noticeably young age include parents forcing children out of the household, fleeing abusive households, unplanned pregnancies, and guardians or parents being evicted for not paying their rent.
What we heard from tenants’ rights associations
We received several submissions from tenant’s associations and organizations advocating for tenants' rights who echo the concerns raised in individuals’ submissions. They made important recommendations, including that the National Housing Strategy needs to be reviewed to be clearly oriented towards social housing, and that it be broadened to facilitate legal recourse.
One of the national leaders for social housing advocacy is the Front d'Action Populaire en Réaménagement Urbain (FRAPRU). They are a coalition of 145 organizations active in different regions of Québec, who intervene in every facet of the housing system. Their main priority is the “development and protection of social housing, in the form of public housing, cooperatives and non-profit housing.” In their submission, they denounce the systemic impact of the massive shortage of affordable rental stock on the right to housing, as well as its effects on other related areas of human rights, such as health, food, security, equality, and life.
What we heard about violations of the right to housing for Indigenous peoples
The submission from the National Indigenous Housing Network (NIHN) declares that Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and gender-diverse people are experiencing some of the most egregious right to housing violations across Canada. They are over-represented in almost all aspects of housing insecurity, homelessness, and poverty, and are disproportionately impacted by violence and trauma linked to precarious living situations.
These violations are a result of historic and ongoing attempts by the Canadian state to colonize Indigenous peoples, their cultures, and their ways of living, doing, and being. In the face of these attempts, Indigenous peoples—First Nations, Inuit, and Métis—have resisted and mobilized, continuing to uphold their ways. They continue to navigate and survive violent systems of institutionalization and exclusion, practicing their cultures through land and water stewardship and using mechanisms like international and national human rights covenants and declarations to assert their rights.