Black and single seniors continued to face housing challenges in 2021 despite fewer households living in unaffordable situations, according to a recent Statistics Canada report.
According to an expert, housin
g Problems remained for some populations due to unaffordable rents, soaring house prices and rising costs of living in urban cities like Toronto and Vancouver.
“Rising rents in cities like Toronto are creating a huge barrier in terms of housing,” said Nemoy Lewis, assistant professor at Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning.
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Lewis says StatCan data indicates not enough is being done to protect some of the most vulnerable segments of the population.
“More needs to be done,” he said, citing the need to get rid of deregulated vacancies and cap rent increases.
The Advocacy Center for Tenants Ontario explains on its website that when a unit is vacated, there are no limits and the landlord is allowed to charge any new rent the market will bear. This recently vacated unit may cost the new tenant hundreds of dollars more in rent per month.
It’s essentially “a lack of regulation that would limit how much landlords are legally allowed to charge for unoccupied units,” the center said.
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According to housing affordability data from Ratehub.ca, people will need to earn more than $220,000 to buy a home in Toronto and Vancouver with a 20% down payment.
While home prices have fallen in cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Hamilton, the income required to buy a home in these markets still remains higher due to stress test rates and rising mortgage rates. , according to the Ratehub.ca report. .
In a recent Canadian Income Survey released by Statistics Canada in March, the median after-tax income of Canadian families was $66,800 in 2020, which is by no means enough to afford a home in major cities. from the country.
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Blacks are least likely to be homeowners
Additionally, Black-headed households were the least likely to be homeowners at 37.0%, compared to 42.0% in 2018.
Among households headed by people designated as racialized, 62.0% owned their homes in 2021, unchanged from 2018, according to the recent Statistics Canada report.
In 2021, the report also showed that one in five black-headed households said they had experienced economic hardship in the past 12 months, with nearly two-thirds of those identifying COVID-19 as the cause.
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“One of those persistent issues for Black-headed households is not having access to affordable housing in major urban centers like Toronto and various other urban centers across the country,” Lewis said.
However, Lewis says he’s not surprised by the data.
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Lewis cited a study by the Wellesley Institute, a Toronto-based nonprofit research and policy think tank, which showed that in 2020, black tenants were twice as likely to be evicted.
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“It’s because of unaffordable rent, so it didn’t surprise me that they were more likely to experience economic hardship, which might explain why black tenants experience higher eviction rates for not -payment of rent,” he said.
The Statistics Canada report indicates that more Black renter households (17.1%) identified COVID-19 as the reason for economic hardship than landlords (11.0%).
Black-headed households were among the hardest hit, with 40.0% reporting economic hardship and three-quarters of those attributing it to COVID-19, the report said.
Elderly single tenants struggling with unaffordable housing
Another group with housing problems are single seniors. According to the Statistics Canada report, senior renters are more likely to live alone (49%) in unaffordable housing than senior homeowners (18.8%).
The affordability situation of single seniors was also worse than that of seniors who lived alone in government-subsidized housing, the report said.
“Older adults continue to face affordability issues and even travel challenges in cities with high living costs,” Lewis said.
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He says rent increases in provinces like Ontario have created significant challenges for seniors on fixed incomes or pensions.
“While rents continued to rise, the income of single seniors remained stagnant…this should raise the question of what sacrifices are seniors making to survive in an unaffordable rental market like Toronto?” said Lewis.
He says these people might make sacrifices when it comes to groceries, personal care items, or medications they might need just to pay the rent.
Lewis says policymakers need to get rid of the removal of vacancy screening, which COVID-19 has helped make emerge as a major problem facing tenants.
“Early on in COVID, we saw rents go down, and what was happening was people who could have benefited were having their hours reduced or losing their jobs,” he said. he declares.
He says the people who were facing the greatest economic hardship during the pandemic didn’t have a stable income to provide a landlord to demonstrate they deserved that particular rental unit.
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“The people who benefited from these falling rents were upper-middle-class income families who were able to continue working from home and were able to continue to keep their same wages,” Lewis said.
He says these groups have been able to take advantage of lower rents instead of the more vulnerable groups.
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Lewis says the removal of vacancy controls helps incentivize landlords to force some of the most vulnerable segments of the population out of their homes in order to lure higher-income renters into those particular units.
“If the data shows that some people are experiencing these economic hardships, it should also suggest that we need to put safeguards in place to ensure that we don’t allow rents to spiral out of control and exacerbate the affordability issues that some d ‘among themselves these people face,’ he said.
“We also have to make sure that we don’t create income-polarized cities where you can only live in Toronto if you’re wealthy,” he added.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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