Canada must act to ease housing inequality

November 22, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

To mark National Housing Day, Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, issues the following statement:

As we mark National Housing Day today, Canada’s worsening housing crisis is more concerning than ever. It is unacceptable in a country like Canada that an increasing number of people are homeless, facing evictions, or cannot find an affordable place to live.

The pandemic has exacerbated an already dire situation. The risk of contracting COVID-19 in a shelter has made it extremely difficult for people experiencing homelessness, many of whom have resorted to finding shelter elsewhere, including in encampments. As people’s livelihoods were put at risk, many are now facing eviction or foreclosure as a result. And the economic crisis caused by the pandemic saw large investors turn to real estate as a safe bet, driving up prices and putting affordability at risk for those most in need.

Without concerted resources and action at all levels of government to fulfil the right to adequate housing and improve conditions for those most in need, housing inequalities and homelessness will continue to grow. All governments at all levels have a role to play to ease the housing crisis, including the federal government.

As the new session of Parliament begins, we call on the federal government to:

  • Implement its commitments in the National Housing Strategy Act – including approaching housing as a human right. Canada must prioritize the most disadvantaged groups and mobilize all available resources to meet their housing needs.
  • Lead coordinated, urgent action to prevent homelessness, provide the housing and supports people need to move out of homelessness, and uphold the fundamental rights and dignity of people experiencing homelessness, including residents of encampments.
  • Take action to implement rights-based policies that prevent evictions. Evictions are violations of human rights with devastating consequences that can only be justified in exceptional circumstances. When evictions cannot be avoided, there must be meaningful engagement with those affected and comprehensive support provided to ensure that evictions do not cause people to enter into homelessness.
  • Regulate the housing market to keep rents and home prices in check, and invest in non-market housing that is safe, healthy, accessible to persons with disabilities, and permanently affordable to those with the lowest incomes.

As we look to develop solutions to the housing crisis, the independent voice of the Federal Housing Advocate is needed more than ever. The Advocate’s role is critical to shed light on the reality of housing inequality and identify workable solutions that are grounded in human rights.

Finally, as we develop solutions, we must give decision-makers access to the best information available to understand how inequality takes shape in our housing system and who it impacts most. To this end, the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate has partnered with Statistics Canada to release today a series of fact sheets on housing experiences in Canada, which shed light on the disproportionate levels of housing need across disadvantaged groups. The reliable, disaggregated data produced by this partnership is key to help us understand who is being left behind and how we can focus our solutions on the most disadvantaged as we remedy the inequalities in our housing system.


Quick Facts

  • Everyone in Canada has the right to adequate housing – a right that Canada committed to in the National Housing Strategy Act. Unfortunately, that is not the reality for many people in Canada today. The fact remains that 1.7 million people in Canada are living in homes that are inadequate or unaffordable, and 235,000 face homelessness each year.

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