Housing Experiences in Canada

Release date: November 22, 2021

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The National Housing Strategy Act (2019) declared that “the right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right affirmed in international law.” Housing is an important social determinant of health and well-being. Having an affordable and safe place to live gives individuals and families the environment they need to succeed, grow and live in dignity. However, not all Canadians have access to housing that meets their basic needs. It is therefore important to understand the various challenges that people in Canada may face when trying to find a place to call home.

To improve this understanding, Statistics Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s Office of the Federal Housing Advocate have developed a series of fact sheets, called Housing Experiences in Canada. The series responds to the requirements of the National Housing Strategy Act, and the fact sheets use information from the Canadian Housing Survey (CHS) and the Census of Population to offer insights into housing experiences in Canada.

Statistics in these fact sheets will help the Federal Housing Advocate fulfill their role in promoting the right to housing in Canada and monitoring the impact of housing policy on everyone in Canada, including those who experience inadequate housing and homelessness.

The fact sheets are also being made publicly available to contribute to a better understanding of the housing situations different populations face across Canada, to public discourse about the potential housing disadvantage affecting these populations, and to the development of housing submissions to the Federal Housing Advocate.

Canada’s National Housing Strategy Act

On June 21, 2019, Parliament passed the National Housing Strategy Act which affirmed for the first time in federal legislation that housing is a fundamental human right in Canada.

The act established a requirement for:

  • National Housing Strategy (in place since 2017)
  • National Housing Council (supported by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)
  • Federal Housing Advocate (hosted by the Canadian Human Rights Commission).

The Act affirmed that the right to adequate housing without discrimination is a fundamental human right for everyone in Canada. The act also commits the Government of Canada to further the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing as recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Having an affordable, suitable and secure home is essential to living a dignified life and building healthy and sustainable communities. Furthermore, the right to adequate housing is an important precondition for exercising other human rights, including the rights to life, good physical and mental health, education, and political participation.

The human rights-based approach to housing adopted in the Act and the National Housing Strategy underlines that housing must provide more than four walls and a roof. It should be equitable and accessible to all without discrimination based on gender, race, Indigenous identity, disability, faith, place of birth, age, family status, sexual orientation, gender identity or other factors. Adequate housing, in the context of the Act, is defined as housing that:

  • provides secure tenure (protection from arbitrary eviction, forced relocation or harassment)
  • is affordable (housing costs should not be a barrier to meeting other basic needs, such as food)
  • is habitable (safe, healthy, in good repair, and with adequate space for the inhabitants and protection from the elements)
  • provides access to basic services, including safe drinking water, sanitation, heating, lighting and emergency services
  • is in a location that is safe and close to employment and basic social services such as child care, education and health care
  • is accessible for people of all abilities, particularly those experiencing discrimination or living in vulnerable circumstances
  • is culturally appropriate (respects and is appropriate for the expression of the inhabitants’ cultural identity).

The Federal Housing Advocate

The National Housing Strategy Act mandates the Federal Housing Advocate to promote and protect the right to housing in Canada. The Advocate will make recommendations to improve Canada’s housing laws, policies and programs to help people and families in Canada access adequate, suitable, affordable and safe housing that meets their needs. Furthermore, the Act directs the Advocate to focus particularly on the rights of people in Canada who are members of disadvantaged groups, people with lived experience of inadequate housing and people with lived experience of homelessness.

The Advocate has a role monitoring the right to housing and will also receive submissions from members of the public across Canada housing challenges they have experienced. These housing challenges will be analyzed to identify systemic housing issues. The Advocate can refer systemic housing issues that fall under Parliament’s jurisdiction to the National Housing Council, which will form a review panel to conduct a hearing into the issue and make recommendations.

The Advocate may also decide to initiate their own review of a systemic housing issue. The findings and recommendations brought forward by the Advocate and the Review Panel will help to identify solutions and necessary reforms to laws, policies and programs that affect housing and homelessness in Canada. This mechanism also gives members of affected communities an opportunity to be included and participate in the process, and to contribute to housing policy and solutions.

The Advocate reports annually to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development on their activities and their recommendations to address systemic housing issues.

For more information on the Federal Housing Advocate, visit,

Housing indicators

The Housing Experiences in Canada fact sheet series focuses on the following housing indicators collected and produced by Statistics Canada:

  • tenure status of household
  • shelter costs
  • housing affordability
  • housing suitability
  • condition of dwelling
  • core housing need
  • dwelling satisfaction
  • neighbourhood satisfaction
  • household living arrangements

While these indicators together do not perfectly measure adequate housing as defined in international law, they are nevertheless useful proxies for understanding the housing experiences of people living in Canada.

The shelter costs and housing affordability indicators provide information on whether housing is affordable. The household living arrangements, housing suitability and condition of dwelling indicators reveal whether housing is habitable. The tenure status of a household affects whether housing is both affordable and habitable, but it also informs aspects of secure tenure in the context of the act. Dwelling satisfaction and neighbourhood satisfaction provide context for other components of adequate housing not directly measured by Statistics Canada.

Populations selected for fact sheets in the Housing Experiences in Canada series

The Housing Experiences in Canada fact sheets will provide data on several different Canadian subpopulations, identified by Statistics Canada in collaboration with the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate. Statistics for housing indicators presented in this series describe the lived housing experience of people.

Housing indicators, including those featured in these fact sheets, may be presented at the household level in other publications. Housing policy and programs, which are often delivered at the household or dwelling level, require coherent household statistics in order to inform decision making. For example, homeownership rates typically focus on households to provide market-wide insights into housing situations. Here, where the focus is on housing as a human right, it is important to consider the housing situations faced by each and every person. Household level statistics may not fully represent the prevalence of inadequate housing for different Canadian subpopulations when they are not proportionally represented by a typical or average household.

Due to limitations in the disaggregated data, we are unable to provide a full gender-based analysis by subpopulations. Instead, fact sheets will include data to highlight differences in housing experiences for men and women, with stand-alone fact sheets being produced on a diverse range of subpopulations, including gender diverse people, which can help us better understand disparities in housing experiences in Canada.

Fact sheets focus on the most current and relevant data available. New fact sheets will be released continuously as data become available—as a result, fact sheets will be available sooner for some groups than for others. Data in the fact sheets are currently published only at the Canada level.

For selected population groups that are smaller in number or not part of the Canada Housing Survey’s  target population, the Census of Population will be the primary data source. See below for a list of the fact sheets included in this series.

Housing Experiences in Canada fact sheets

Total population and households

Age and gender groups


Visible minorities

Indigenous populations

Other groups

About the Canadian Housing Survey (CHS)

Statistics Canada’s CHS provides timely and relevant data on how Canadians feel about their housing and how housing affects them. Information is collected on core housing need, dwelling characteristics and housing tenure, perceptions of economic hardship from housing costs, dwelling and neighbourhood satisfaction, perceptions of neighbourhood issues and safety, housing moves and intentions to move, volunteering, community engagement, life satisfaction, community satisfaction, dwelling adaptations to improve accessibility, self-assessed health, experience with homelessness, and sociodemographic characteristics.

It is important to note that the following groups are excluded from the CHS population:

  • people living on reserves and in other Indigenous settlements
  • official representatives of foreign countries living in Canada, and their families
  • members of religious and other communal colonies
  • members of the Canadian Armed Forces living on military bases
  • people living in seniors’ residences
  • people living full time in institutions (e.g., inmates of penal institutions, and chronic care patients living in hospitals and nursing homes)
  • people living in other types of collective dwellings (e.g., shelters, campgrounds and hotels).

For operational reasons, people living in some small remote areas in the territories where collection costs would be exorbitant are also excluded from the survey.

For more information on the CHS, please refer to,

About the Census of Population

Census of Population data are important for all communities and are vital for planning services such as schools, day care, family services, housing, police services, fire protection, roads, public transportation and skills training for employment. The Census of Population is the primary source of sociodemographic data for specific population groups such as lone-parent families, Indigenous people, immigrants, seniors and language groups.

Dwelling characteristics (the physical attributes of the living quarters occupied by a household) available from the 2016 Census include number of rooms, number of bedrooms, period of construction, dwelling condition, condominium status and value (owner estimated) of dwelling. Dwelling characteristics, except value of dwelling, are disseminated for all occupied private dwellings in Canada.

Household characteristics (characteristics of the person or group of people occupying the private dwelling) available from the 2016 Census include tenure, household size, household total income and household type. Household characteristics were collected for all private households.

Data from the 2016 Census of Population are currently available.

For more information on housing variables from the 2016 Census, please refer to the Housing Reference Guide:

Collection for the 2021 Census of Population took place in the spring of 2021. New housing data from this census were released in September 2022. Data tables from the 2021 Census of Population are currently available:

For more information on housing variables from the 2021 Census, please refer to the Housing Reference Guide

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