Will high rent decide the federal election? Data shows rent highest in swing ridings

By: Lisa Coxon on September 18, 2019

Renters in some of Canada’s “battleground ridings” are spending half or more of their income on housing, which could become a major issue for voters as the upcoming federal election looms.

According to the 2019 Canadian Rental Housing Index (CRHI), which unveiled a new rental housing tool on Tuesday, there are 20 ridings in Canada where 25% or more of renters are spending at least half of their income on rent and utilities.

Eleven of those ridings are in Ontario; six are in British Columbia, and the remaining three are in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Manitoba.

Five of the country’s worst ridings for rental housing affordability are also among those ridings where the race is tightest between political parties, according to CBC News.

“These numbers clearly demonstrate why Canadians and housing advocates have been calling on our political leaders to take more immediate action to address the affordability challenges impacting so many families and individuals across the country," said Jill Atkey, CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, in a news release.

“Whichever party forms the next government will need to increase the investments into the National Housing Strategy in order to achieve its goals before this crisis gets even worse.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to help first-time homebuyers in housing markets like Toronto and Vancouver by expanding the number of eligible first-time buyers under the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s First-Time Homebuyers Incentive (FTHBI).

The program operates on a shared-equity model where the government puts up either 5% of the purchase price for an existing home, and up to 10% for the value of a new home, in exchange for the same percentage of equity in the home when it’s sold.

A spokesperson for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer told CBC News that Scheer has plans to introduce his own proposal on home ownership affordability.

The Canadian Rental Housing Index was created by compiling rental housing statistics from several organizations, including housing and municipal associations, as well as credit unions.

According to the index, the Willowdale riding in Toronto, which covers the swath north of the 401 to Steeles Ave. and between Bayview and Bathurst Sts., emerged as the worst for rental affordability. Here, 39% of renters reported spending half or more of their income on rent. There are 19,445 renters in the Willowdale riding, and the average income is $56,690.

The other Ontario ridings where renters reported spending 50% or more of their income on rent are:

  • Richmond Hill
  • King-Vaughan
  • Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill
  • Don Valley North
  • Thornhill
  • Markham-Unionville
  • Mississauga Centre
  • Toronto Centre
  • Waterloo

The data collected also revealed that 50% of single-mother renter households in Canada are spending over the recommended benchmark of 30% of their income on rent, and 22% are experiencing “a crisis level of spending.” Single-mother renter households in British Columbia and Saskatchewan are in the worst shape.