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Buildings are one of the most impactful areas where a municipality can reduce its emissions. Increasing energy efficiency can also make housing costs more affordable.
Housing prices have been increasing, and ensuring people can afford housing is important for tackling poverty. How affordable is housing in a community? How many of its buildings are sustainable?

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Why this Indicator is Important

Climate change and housing access are parallel crises that need to be tackled together. When all people in Canada have their basic housing needs met, they’re more able to think about and exert their personal political power and demand emissions reductions. Strong protections for tenants also mean they can better advocate for their own health and safety in the face of climate change - for example, for adequate air conditioning.1 Conversely, extreme weather events have a greater impact on unhoused people and increase housing insecurity overall, particularly for low-income people who are less able to replace or repair damaged homes.2 In Canada, affordable housing is defined as costing less than 30% of a household’s before-tax income.3 “Rent geared to income” housing programs ensure this threshold is not being exceeded. While strategies like increasing the minimum wage fall within provincial jurisdiction, municipalities can support housing affordability by working with provincial and federal governments, as well as private and non-profit housing providers, to ensure there are enough units of affordable housing being built in the community. They should also exercise oversight to ensure these homes are being properly maintained.


Data Availability and Accessibility: 3/3

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We used rental price data to calculate the “rental wage,” which is the hourly wage needed to afford an average apartmentwithout spending more than 30% of total income. The rental wage calculation followsthe Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Report (CCPA), “Unaccommodating: Rental HousingWage in Canada.”4 We follow the CCPA’s method of looking at the price of a two-bedroom unit as a “proxy,” since it “offers a modest amount of room for multiple living arrangements.” Rental price data was collected from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a national agency which collects housing data, including average rent prices, from across the country. Rental market data only includes townhouses and apartments, however—houses are not tracked.

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Note(s):Methodology for calculating rental wage is based on work from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (2019). Data are from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (2021). Solid lines represent provincial minimum wages.

Winning Municipality

In Sherbrooke, Quebec, the rental wage required to rent a two-bedroom apartment is $14 - less than Quebec’s $14.25 minimum wage and significantly lower than the next most affordable Canadian cities. The impetus to build affordable housing often comes from multiple levels of government - for example,a federal-provincial partnership was announced in 2022 that will put $6 million dollars into new affordable units in Sherbrooke.5 The city itself also has an important role to play, deciding how much affordable housing to build and where it should go. Additionally, Quebec’s stronger rent control rules help keep market rent in check.6 Tenants are able to refuse rent increases requested by their landlords, and landlords are required to disclose to new tenants what the lowest rent paid in theprevious twelve months was. If the amount being requested in the new lease is higher, the tenant can apply to the housing tribunal to set the rent using the previous price as the starting point.


International Highlights

In Vienna, Austria, approximately 23% of housingis social housing.7 The city has policies that set a fixed proportion of housing to students, low-income residents, and refugees. The wait list for this social housing is relatively short since around 5000 units are built annually. Nordbahnhof, a development project set to be completed in 2030 is a perfect example of Vienna’s effort to promote affordable housing. The development will create around 20,00 homes. These residential homes will be built in diverse blocks that will include commercial spaces along with green spaces. To promote affordable housing, buildings are mostly reserved for social housing.