Shining A Light On Affordable Rental Housing In Canada

Sign welcoming visitors and residents to Spryfield, Nova Scotia
Spryfield, Nova Scotia's housing market, has a large number of low priced rental housing units. It gets special attention in a new Canada-wide housing resource.

Thanks to the work of people at dozens of agencies across Canada, anyone with access to a computer and the internet explore the most affordable rental housing in selected cities in Canada.

The project, called LEMR (Low End of Market Rental Housing Monitor) is a collaboration by housing providers, government, housing advocates, service providers, researchers and web developers.

There are interactive maps for six metropolitan areas. There are also tables with the data from the maps, which can be downloaded for additional analysis.

A great deal of thought went into the definition of housing affordability. As a result, LEMR offers affordability levels specific to each metropolitan area by family size. This level of granularity was not previously available. The affordability thresholds that a family can afford are also compared with the asking rents for suitably sized units in the appropriate rental market.

The process used to generate the affordability data is applied consistently in all centres, which allows comparisons between them. The process also produces a level of detail at the local level that is extremely valuable. Who has trouble finding housing they can afford? Where is the most affordable housing? How does the housing supply offered at specific rent levels change over time? LEMR really brings to light the significant loss of low-priced rent housing in all six metropolitan areas.

Housing is regulated provincially and locally. Practically, this means that there are other data sources in each centre may not be present in another community. For example, the City of Toronto has a rental ratings inspection system, which is not present (or differs from ones) in other cities. Where the data is relevant to understanding the local rental market, LEMR includes them. These diverse sources of data could be sources of inspiration for new policy directions in other centres.

The LEMR site also includes data stories. The stories illustrate how the data could inform local decision making about rental housing policies that affect renters. For example, the evidence identifies areas where there are rental units that are affordable for tenants with low incomes. These would be areas to focus on when developing programs to preserve and protect existing low rent units. Strategies to keep units with low rents in the housing stock can be implemented much faster than building new housing, which will not come on line for several years.

Read more about LEMR here.

You can also watch a webinar about LEMR’s features on YouTube: How to use the LEMR Housing Monitor

LEMR is intended for local, provincial and national use in Canada. The methodologies and the products may also be of interest to readers in other jurisdictions.