housing market ontario

More than half of Ontario tenants have been cutting back on food to afford rent

Housing affordability has become a major issue in Ontario over the past several years, with more and more being priced out of neighbourhoods and cities, and a new poll demonstrates just how dire the situation has become. 

The poll, which was commisisoned by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, found that 60 per cent of tenants have had to cut back on food to afford rent. 

"Renters are being squeezed in an extreme affordability crisis that affects them in every single part of their lives, and very little is being done to help them," wrote the ACTO of the findings. "No one, anywhere, should have to choose between food and shelter. And yet in Ontario, that's exactly what we're seeing."

Rental prices in Toronto and other Ontario municipalities have been on a steep incline for years, a crisis that was exarcerbated in some regions by the pandemic. And incomes have not kept pace, with Ontario's $15/hr minimum wage lagging behind what is really needed to live. In Toronto, for instance, a living wage is $22.08/hr.

Coupled with rising food prices and overall inflation, these compounding crises are pushing more and more into poverty, according to the report. It found that 74 per cent of Ontarians have had to cut back on their other spending to afford their rents. 

And many are also on the brink of homelessness, with 65 per cent of low-income renters saying they would not be able to pay their rent over the next three months without taking on debt should they lose their income.

"Understanding poverty is not just about measuring household income — it means we also have to look at how much people can save and how long they can cover their basic costs if they were to lose their incomes," says the ACTO. 

"Anyone who pays 50 per cent or more of their income towards their shelter is at a very high risk of becoming homeless. Ontario renters are balancing on a knife's edge to stay housed."

With affordable housing options dwindling, the poll found that many have also considered uprooting their lives and moving to a different municipality.

Though the solutions to this growing crisis aren't straight-forward, the ACTO says reinstating real rent control would be an impactful place to start, including by scrapping the failed 2018 exemption for rent control on new builds, and getting rid of the long-standing policy of vacancy decontrol.

Over 80 per cent of Ontario tenants believe there should be a limit to the amount landlords can increase the rent for a unit when it becomes vacant, demonstrating the wide supoprt for vacancy decontrol. 

"We encourage all Ontarians to reflect on their housing priorities, and look closely at each provincial party to see what's on the table in this election," says the ACTO. "The stakes for renters could not be higher."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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