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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Canada needs to build more affordable housing for newcomers

The relationship between newcomers and the Canadian economy includes three key pillars: job availability, a substantial working-age population, and affordable housing. All three pillars must be supported by the government – if one is missing, the whole system collapses.

While Canada has always relied on newcomers for population growth due to its low birth rate, both housing affordability and job availability fluctuate greatly.

In the past, newcomers to Canada have struggled to find quality employment due to tight job markets and credential recognition barriers. As such, many newcomers have found themselves unemployed in gig jobs and part-time minimum wage positions.

However, the recent labor shortage, compounded by the retirement of baby boomers and the pandemic, has resulted in a bounty of jobs available to newcomers.

With a low national birth rate and high labor demand, immigration is more important than ever for Canada’s economy to sustain and grow.

To meet such a goal, the Canadian Immigration Department aims to admit between 950,000 and 1,260,000 new permanent residents over the next few years. Canada needs to ensure that these new residents have safe, secure and affordable places to call home when they arrive.

housing column still unsupported

While Canada now has jobs available to newcomers, and the immigration policies needed to fill those job vacancies, immigrants and expatriates are still struggling to find a place to live. Rapidly rising housing costs and low housing availability are a deadly combination for newcomers.

The deadly combination of housing being used as an investment tool, as well as increasing demand for housing, has led to skyrocketing real estate prices.
Canadian Press/Nathan Dennett

Despite more new units being created than ever before, as household size continues to shrink, more units are needed for the same population size. Ontario needs to build one million homes and Vancouver 156,000 over the next decade to address the housing shortage and accommodate families struggling with housing sustainability.

The combination of modest population growth, housing finance and increased housing demand is driving prices up rapidly. These factors have made housing extremely affordable for many. Without affordable housing, newcomers will move elsewhere, our labor shortages will persist and Canada will struggle to keep up with economic growth.

Canadian dream myth

Over the past five years, we have researched the long-term housing outcomes of Syrian government-aided refugees settled in Canada since 2015-16. We meet regularly with these families to assess housing quality and progress towards achieving housing sustainability.

In the course of our research, we have seen how many refugees are frustrated by being unable to achieve housing stability. Most refugee families initially living in small apartments aim to gain employment so that they can eventually buy larger homes to suit their families.

But no matter how quickly they improve their economic situation, housing quickly becomes out of reach with rising fuel and food costs.

A Congregation Of People Who Swear And Put Up Their Right Hands
New Canadians take the oath of allegiance at the oath of citizenship ceremony at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax in January 2020.
Canadian Press/Riley Smith

With the rise in home prices and the growth in the rental market, newcomer families find themselves locked in their current rental units, unable to buy a home or even rent out a larger space. The only option left for them is to remain under-housed and disappointed by oversold on Canada’s offer.

need for better policies

Ultimately, ensuring Canada’s economic growth will require policies that increase the housing supply and ensure the affordability of this supply. If housing affordability halts population growth, the labor shortage will be more of a crisis than ever before.

All levels of government must take immediate action to improve housing supply and affordability, including increasing the supply of affordable housing. Government intervention should be better coordinated and reduce the amount of administrative red tape faced by community-based organizations trying to lead affordable housing projects.

This includes, but should not be limited to, the implementation of recent recommendations proposed by the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force, which focuses, for example, on increasing housing density.

In order for the housing market to be responsive to the needs of newcomers, this must include the development of housing units large enough to accommodate families. This is particularly relevant as the children of newcomers will eventually participate in the Canadian labor market.

Housing, immigration and the economy must work together. Currently, it seems that housing is not working for anyone except investors. Addressing the housing issue by adopting a human rights framework put us on an accelerated path to meet the housing needs of newly arrived families.

World Nation News Desk
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