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5 Myths of Affordable Housing in Ontario


Ontario has a housing and homelessness crisis fuelled by several factors, including low vacancy rates, limited housing supply, and a lack of options. Combine this with stagnate wages, skyrocketing rents, and out of reach homeownership and you have a major problem. Access to housing is a major social determinant of health. Affordable housing is essential for the economic and social well-being of the society, yet, there is a lot of myths of affordable housing in Ontario that ought to be debunked.

Apartment building

Defining affordability

Housing developers contend that the definition of affordable housing should be based on average market rent. However, given the expensive rental market in Ontario, this definition does not equal affordable housing for many, especially low-income renters.

Instead there has been a major push, and redefining from the City of Toronto in a November 2021 landmark decision, that affordable housing should be defined as housing that people can afford to pay. Affordable rents mean families pay no more than 30% of their gross income.

Many renters pay above the 30% threshold, especially in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Often people are paying more than 50% of their income on housing. This makes the cost of living out of reach for low and moderate income people. Hard decisions must be made between rent, food, medication, and transportation. To calculate the amount of housing costs that would be affordable to you, check out CMHC’s calculator.

“The change in the definition for affordable housing from market rates to income-based marked an important step forward (for) housing as a human right. When we define affordability as housing that people can afford, we begin to build a Toronto that’s for everyone, where we have a mix of incomes that make it truly sustainable and a vibrant place to be where someone like me — renting while raising two children — doesn’t have to fear displacement from the community and city my family calls home.” said Carly Bowie of Lakeshore Affordable Housing Advocacy and Action Group – Toronto Star November 3, 2022.

City of Toronto’s chart that shows the difference between market-based and income-based definitions of affordable housing.

Myths of Affordable Housing

#1 Property values in that neighbourhood will go down

Declining property values is a prevailing narrative for the opposition to the building of affordable housing. However studies conclude there is no evidence to support these claims. There is no impact to property values with the existence of affordable housing in neighbourhoods.

#2 Crime will increase

Community members who oppose affordable housing being built in their neighbourhood cite increased crime as a main concern. However, after a study that looked at 146 supportive housing sites, it found that this is simply not true. There is no evidence to support an increase in violence and/or crime in neighbourhoods that have affordable housing buildings.

#3 Affordable housing won’t fit the character of the neighbourhood

Many people who are not interested in seeing affordable housing being built may hold onto this idea. In actuality, any affordable housing developments must fit in with the design of current building in those neighbourhoods and from a character perspective, are built the same as market rate housing.

#4 Affordable housing definition based on market rate will benefit and grow the economy

The idea that rents must be at market rate for the economy to grow is a prevalent notion, but it misses the mark. Affordable housing creates several opportunities for economic growth. For one it contributes to a stable and healthy population. When people are adequately housed in affordable units, individuals and families go from surviving to thriving. Not to mention the building and maintaining of affordable housing creates jobs and the people who live in them contribute and grow local economies.

#5 All we need to do is increase housing supply to increase affordability

Increasing housing supply is not a standalone measure for the realization of widespread affordable housing. Building stock will not keep pace with the current and future demand for housing units in Ontario. Additionally, more units does not equate affordable ones. There must be programs and investment in place to ensure that people have a safe place to call home.

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