This year’s vestry motion and the human right to housing

A line of folded paper houses
 on January 2, 2024

The fact that Canada is in a housing crisis is indisputable. Across our diocese, rents are rising higher than inflation, with the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment now over $1,500 even in Cobourg and Lindsay, nearing $2,000 in Barrie, Collingwood and Oshawa, over $2,300 in Peel and York regions and over $2,500 in Toronto.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), 15.3 per cent of Ontario households are in core housing need – that is, they are paying more than 30 per cent of gross household income on housing, their housing is not in adequate condition or is too small for the size of the household, or any combination of these factors. Housing policy analyst Carolyn Whitzman has pointed out in a recent report that the need is actually much greater, as CMHC calculations do not include people experiencing homelessness or living in shared housing conditions such as student residences or long-term care homes, or those living with roommates. As we have seen from downtown Toronto and Brampton to Barrie, Peterborough, Whitby and Port Hope, more and more of our neighbours are being pushed into homelessness, and existing shelter systems are insufficient to meet the rising need.

Given these figures, it may be surprising to hear that housing is a human right in Canada. The human right to housing is not only enshrined in international treaties Canada has signed, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals; the National Housing Strategy Act (2019) also commits the federal government to the progressive realization of the right to housing. While this does not mean that the government guarantees everyone a home, it does mean that the government must do everything in its power to realize the right to housing for Canadians, including removing barriers to the realization of that right.

Barriers to realizing the right to housing go beyond a lack of supply, though recent policy at all levels of government has focused primarily on increasing supply. Policies that drive up rents faster than inflation, permit the rapid expansion of short-term rentals and reward maximizing profits on rental housing at the expense of keeping units affordable and in good repair pose even more significant obstacles to realizing the human right to housing. We are currently losing affordable housing units faster than we can build them. We must also take steps to prevent the loss of existing affordable housing stock.

This year’s social justice vestry motion addresses several of the key barriers to realizing the human right to housing, with calls addressed to every level of government. The federal government can do its part by targeting public funds and favourable tax treatment to those developers and projects that demonstrably address housing need; meeting clear conditions on affordable rents, non-displacement policies and eviction prevention policies; and limiting public funds and tax incentives for those developers and real estate investment vehicles that prioritize profit over the human right to housing. The provincial government can close rent control loopholes, including vacancy decontrol, which allow landlords to raise rents to any level they choose between tenants. The province can also work with municipal governments to enact and enforce reasonable restrictions on short-term rentals, to preserve rental housing stock in local communities.

These policies may look abstract on paper, but they have a very real impact on people’s lives. We all know people struggling to pay rising rents despite lapses in basic building upkeep, people who have been priced out of their communities, or people who have been forced to try to find new housing when their building has been demolished for an expensive new one to be built in its place. Some of us, or members of our immediate families, may have experienced this ourselves.

You can learn more about this year’s social justice vestry motion by visiting In addition to the motion and backgrounder, there are links for further reading and viewing that explore the issues in more depth. The Social Justice & Advocacy Committee also invites you to submit questions on this year’s motion by Jan. 15, which we will do our best to address in our annual video Q&A.

Scripture recognizes the human need for shelter, security and dignity. Isaiah 32:18 reads, “My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” If we are truly committed to realizing the right to housing, our laws and policies must reflect this commitment.


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