My parents moved to Canada with five children in 1966, when I was just eight years old. We found a decent three-bedroom rental accommodation that got our family started in this new country.
In the 20-year period around 1966, 500,000 apartments were built and that allowed many immigrants to come here, settle and subsequently thrive. This good-quality rental housing was part of the foundation of our Canadian experience.
Here’s the takeaway; it’s commonly believed that the first five years of a child’s life forms the basis for adulthood, being a good Canadian and a contributing member of society.
Similarly, I would argue that the first five years of being an immigrant determine their success as a Canadian citizen and housing is a big component of that success factor.
Rental housing leads to home ownership
Most immigrants live in affordable housing when they first arrive and subsequently move into home ownership. Indeed, the home ownership of longer-term immigrants is higher than native-born Canadians (but the vast majority start in rental housing).
Affordability of rental housing is a challenge. It’s being addressed in a patchwork way with various federal, provincial and municipal initiatives.
Scotiabank, in its recent paper, called for the federal government to convene a national table which includes all levels of government as well as builders, developers and civil society organizations. Additionally, it has launched a $10 billion affordable housing initiative.
We have hosted a few affordable housing-focused webinars and with the participation of industry experts, delivered a clear message that there is a solution. We have also analyzed the numbers, and to the surprise of private developers, there is a winning path for the private development of affordable housing in Canada.
The vast majority of the rental stock and the affordable housing in Canada has been built by the private sector.
The past is a good indicator of the future. A significant part of the solution to our rental supply and affordable housing must come from the private sector.