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About Affordable Housing in Canada

An efficient and well-functioning housing sector enables the marketplace to be the primary vehicle to meet the shelter needs of Canadians. In Canada, the housing needs of some 80 per cent of Canadian households are being met through the marketplace, supported by CMHC's housing finance activities. CMHC provides a wide range of mortgage loan insurance products for owner occupied and rental housing, including large rental buildings, nursing and retirement homes, and housing in rural and smaller communities. Mortgage loan insurance helps borrowers obtain financing at competitive interest rates. CMHC's securitization programs enhance the supply of low-cost funds for mortgage lending.

However, not all members of society have the financial means to compete effectively in the housing market, nor is the marketplace necessarily able to meet distinct housing needs of some groups, such as persons with disabilities. For those households whose needs cannot be met by the marketplace, governments, community organizations, non-profit and cooperative groups and the private sector are working together to provide affordable housing solutions.

In Canada, housing is considered affordable if shelter costs account for less than 30 per cent of before-tax household income. The term "affordable housing" is often used interchangeably with "social housing"; however, social housing is just one category of affordable housing and usually refers to rental housing subsidized by the government. Affordable housing is a much broader term and includes housing provided by the private, public and not-for-profit sectors as well as all forms of housing tenure (ie. rental, ownership and cooperative ownership). It also includes temporary as well as permanent housing. In other words, the term "affordable housing" can refer to any part of the housing continuum from temporary emergency shelters through transition housing, supportive housing, subsidized housing, market rental housing or market homeownership.

Housing Continuum

Emergency Shelters

Transitional Housing

Supportive Housing

Subsidized Housing

Market Rental Housing

Market Homeownership Housing

Since 1946, CMHC has played a vital role in helping Canadians access affordable, high quality housing. Significant federal investments in affordable housing and strong oversight of Canada's housing system have led to Canada being recognized as a country with one of the best housing systems in the world.

The federal government, through CMHC, invests approximately $2 billion annually under various programs and initiatives to help Canadians in need access affordable, sound and suitable housing.

Existing Social Housing Built Between 1946 and 1993

Federal investments in the existing social housing stock built mostly between 1946 and 1993 continue to be substantial. CMHC provides support to close to 600,000 households annually so that individuals and families living in existing social housing can continue to afford their homes. The majority of the off-reserve social housing projects are administered by provinces and territories under various long-term agreements. The rest are directly administered by CMHC, both on and off-reserve.

Investment in Affordable Housing

Since 2011, new federal funding for affordable housing has been provided through the Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH). The federal government has committed to an investment of more than $1.9 billion through the IAH over 8 years, and provinces and territories are cost-matching this federal investment. In recognition of the distinctive needs of Nunavut, an additional $100 million over two years (2013-2015) has been invested by the Government of Canada to support new affordable housing in Nunavut.

Through the IAH the Government of Canada recognizes that provinces and territories are best positioned to decide how to target funding in order to make a lasting difference. Under bilateral agreements with CMHC, provinces and territories cost-match the federal investment and are responsible for choosing the programs they design and deliver to address local housing needs and priorities. As housing needs can vary across the country, under the IAH provinces and territories have the flexibility to invest in a range of programs and initiatives in order to reduce the number of Canadians in housing need.

CMHC’s Investment in Affordable Housing page has more information on the IAH and past affordable housing investments.

The Affordable Housing Centre

CMHC's strength in the area of affordable housing has always been, and will continue to be, understanding local needs and challenges and working with our partners on solutions. Through the Affordable Housing Centre, CMHC facilitates the production of new affordable housing by providing knowledge and expertise as well as interest-free loans, contributions and Mortgage Loan Insurance Flexibilities to groups from the private, non-profit and public sector to produce affordable housing outside the subsidized programs.

The Centre provides Seed Funding and Proposal Development Funding to help with some of the up-front expenses associated with developing a housing project, along with a vast selection of information and interactive tools, as well as access to Canada's largest inventory of housing information, research and market analyses.

Our team is at work in communities across Canada, offering project-specific expertise to help turn affordable housing visions into reality.

Canada's Economic Action Plan

The initial phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan (CEAP) included significant investments in social housing. The Government of Canada provided a $2 billion investment over two years to create new and renovate existing social housing.

This investment created jobs across the country while improving living conditions for tens of thousands of Canadian seniors, persons with disabilities, low-income families, First Nations people and residents of northern communities.

Most of this funding was cost-matched and delivered by provinces and territories under extensions to existing affordable housing agreements with CMHC. Combined, the federal, provincial and territorial funding represented an unprecedented one-time investment in social housing.

In addition, as part of Canada's Economic Action Plan, CMHC funded $2 billion in low-cost loans to municipalities for housing-related infrastructure projects in new or existing residential areas.



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