OTTAWA, November 15, 2017 — Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Statistics Canada, are releasing the core housing need figures from the 2016 Census. In 2016, the rate of core housing need in Canada stood at 12.7%, representing 1.7M households. This new data indicates the proportion of Canadian households in housing need has remained stable since 2006.

“While the proportion of Canadian households living in core housing need has remained stable over the last ten years, different trends exist among provinces and territories,” said Benjamin Williams, Director, Housing Indicators and Analytics. “Between 2011 and 2016, housing conditions have worsened in the Prairies region and in Ontario, and improved in Quebec, British Columbia and in most of the Atlantic region. Core housing need was prevalent in the territories; the rate in Nunavut remained the highest in the country at 36.5%.”


  • The proportion of Ontario households with unacceptable housing has significantly increased; close to 1 in 7 households were in core housing need in 2016, an increase of 130,000 households in absolute numbers compared to 2011, reaching 15.3%.
  • Even with a decrease since 2011, the core housing need rate in British Columbia remained one of the highest in Canada, at 14.9%.
  • The situation for Quebec households has improved by the largest proportion among provinces, bringing the overall rate to a historical low of 9.0%, an absolute reduction of more than 40,000 households compared to 2011.
  • Affordability, especially for renters, remained a key challenge for Canadians. Census data indicate that, except for Alberta, the provinces that experienced an increase in core housing need also saw average shelter costs grow faster than average incomes.
  • Close to 1 in 5 households in Toronto lived in core housing need, ranking as the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) with the highest incidence in Canada. Except for Vancouver and Victoria, all of the other CMAs with the highest incidence of core housing need were located in Ontario.

Additional core housing need visualization tools are available on Statistics Canada’s Census Program Data Viewer. CMHC will continue to release detailed data tables and analysis as they become available in the coming weeks and months. More information on concepts and Census variables is available in Statistic Canada’s Census dictionary.

As Canada’s authority on housing, CMHC contributes to the stability of the housing market and financial system, provides support for Canadians in housing need, and offers objective housing research and information to Canadian governments, consumers and the housing industry.

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Information on this release

For English inquires:
Angelina Ritacco

For French inquires:
Audrey-Anne Coulombe


Core housing need is the indicator used in Canada to identify households not living in, and not able to access, acceptable housing. It describes households living in dwellings considered inadequate in condition, not suitable in size, and unaffordable.

  • Housing is adequate when it does not require major repairs according to its residents.
  • Housing is suitable when it has enough bedrooms for the size and make-up of resident households, according to the National Occupancy Standard (NOS).
  • Housing is deemed affordable when its shelter costs represent less than 30 per cent of before-tax household income.

A household is in core housing need if its housing is unsuitable, inadequate or unaffordable, and if its income is such that it cannot afford alternative housing in the local market.


For renters, shelter costs include rent and fees for electricity, fuel, water, and other municipal services. For home owners, shelter costs include mortgage payments, property taxes and any condominium fees along with electricity, fuel, water and other municipal service costs.

The concept of alternative housing is defined as media local shelter cost, base rent levels and utilities for housing meeting the three standards, representing 30% of the household’s before-tax income.

The universe of households tested for core housing need includes only private non-farm, non-band, non-reserve households with income greater than zero and shelter-cost-to-income ratio (STIR) of less than 100%.

Date Published: November 15, 2017