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New Canadian Rental Housing Index Highlights New National Data

Average rents up by as much as one third since last census in some of Canada’s most expensive provinces, women-led and racialized households more likely to face severe affordability crunch.

TORONTO, ONTARIO (June 19, 2023) – The Canadian Rental Housing Index (the Index) has released its latest findings, revealing a staggering increase in rental costs and significant housing challenges faced by renter households across the country between 2016 – 2021, along with a number of other worrying affordability trends.

The Index is a critical tool for understanding the state of rental housing in the country, analyzing important data from the latest long-form census in 2021. It is unique in its comparison of rents, incomes, overcrowding, and housing quality across demographics – considerations not otherwise available when reviewing rent figures alone.

One of the most concerning trends identified by the Index is the substantial surge in rental costs, particularly in provinces and regions that were already expensive. Between 2016 and 2021, the largest increases in average rents were in British Columbia (30%) and Ontario (27%). Both provinces also lead the country in the highest proportion of renters spending unaffordable or crisis amounts on rent and utilities.

The impact of soaring rental costs in Canadian households remains dire, with one in three (33%) of renters paying an unaffordable amount of their income on housing costs. Within this group of renters, 13% are paying crisis-level amounts at over 50% of their income and placing them at an increased risk of homelessness. In terms of real people, this is as high as 262,300 renter households spending over 50% in Ontario and 128,800 households spending over 50% in Quebec.

“The Index data released today show us the results of collective failure on rental housing investments over the last quarter century,” said Jill Atkey, CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association. “The hundreds of thousands of renters struggling to get by in today’s crushing rental markets expect all levels of government and industry stakeholders to work together to solve this crisis.”

Also concerning is the deteriorating quality of rental housing stock in Canada with an alarming number of units in need of major repairs, as well as the fact 500,000 renter households are resorting to living in overcrowded conditions to keep a roof over their heads. Overcrowding exists across Canada in rural areas, northern communities, and urban environments.  

“Behind each statistic in the index are thousands of renter families and households. This new data demonstrates they are not alone in their struggle to keep up with their housing costs, whether they live in the biggest centres in the country or the smallest communities,” said Marlene Coffey, CEO of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. “The data is a call to action that we need to do more to address rental costs, rental housing quality and in particular ways to support marginalized renters in Canada’s housing market.”

Unlike previous releases of the Index, this year’s database also digs into who is most impacted by these affordability challenges. Examples of systemic oppression are evident across the Index data, with higher levels of representation from marginalized communities in several areas including overcrowding, homes in need of major repairs and affordability. As examples, women-led renter households faced higher rates of affordability challenges than households led by men; and 13% of Indigenous-led renter households were living in homes in need of major repairs compared to 7% of non-Indigenous households. In Quebec, racialized renter households were more likely to be living in overcrowded housing in the province.

“These conditions perpetuate a cycle of inequality and hardship, disproportionately affecting marginalized communities,” said Margaret Pfoh, CEO of the Aboriginal Housing Management Association. “In addition to the unique challenges Indigenous-led households face, these difficult renting conditions also impact women-led, racialized-led, and Immigrant-led households across Canada.”

“This stark reality demands our attention and concerted efforts. We cannot ignore the significant proportion of renter households burdened with unaffordable housing expenses, putting them at an increased risk of homelessness if they are forced to leave their home,” said Ray Sullivan, Executive Director of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association. “We must work together to create a future where all Canadians can access quality housing.”

To learn more about the Canadian Rental Housing Index, and to toggle rental housing in +800 municipalities, regions, and provinces, please visit

Download the media package, which includes a Backgrounder and Infographic for additional information:
About the Partnership

The Canadian Rental Housing Index was developed by BC Non-Profit Housing Association, in partnership with the Aboriginal Housing Management Association, Alberta Seniors and Community Housing Association,  BC Society of Transition Houses, Co-operative Housing Federation of BC, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, University of British Columbia’s Housing Research Collaborative, Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association, New Brunswick Non-Profit Housing Association, Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, and Réseau Québécois des OSBL d’habitation.

The Canadian Rental Housing Index is compiled using data from the 2021 long-form census, obtained through a Statistics Canada custom data request. The long-form census contains the most comprehensive and up-to-date data on rents, incomes, and overcrowding for large and small communities throughout the country.

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