The State of Homelessness in Canada 2014 report coverToday, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness/Homeless Hub and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness have once again teamed up to deliver a national report card on homelessness – State of Homelessness in Canada: 2014. In this ground-breaking report we look at updated statistics on homelessness and housing, as well as provide a detailed cost estimate on reducing the state of the crisis. It’s backed up by solid research Housing Policy Targeting Homelessness from real estate scholar Jane Londerville and economist Marion Steele.

The infographic is based on research in the report and highlights just how severe the housing and homelessness crisis is in this country. It includes new numbers that increase last year’s estimate of the number of people homeless by 5,000 a day or 35,000 a year. This means that every day about 35,000 people experience homelessness and over 235,000 people experience it annually. It also increased the estimate of number of people who experience chronic and episodic homelessness to 13,000 to 33,000 annually.

This report also delves into the crisis in housing in Canada. As Cushing Dolbeare said in 1996, “Homelessness may not be only a housing problem, but it is always a housing problem; housing is necessary, although sometimes not sufficient, to solve the problem of homelessness.”

As a result this report draws the links between housing and homelessness and points out that we will likely never solve the homelessness crisis if we don’t address the issue of the lack of affordable housing. Nearly 1 in 5 households experience extreme housing affordability problems. In the past 20 years nearly 100,000 housing units have not been built because of the cancellation of funding programs for affordable housing.

The report also highlights the discrepancy between homeowners and renters – both in terms of government expenditure but also in terms of wealth and housing affordability. At a tax expenditure level the government contributes $8.6 billion annually to homeowners through imputed rent and capital gains exemptions, compared to just $2.1 billion for renters. Nearly half of renters pay more than 30% of their income on housing compared to less than 1 in 5 homeowners. The median family income for homeowners is $74, 540. Not only do renter families earn significantly less - $37,100 – but this number has actually decreased since 1991 (after being adjusted for inflation).

It’s time for change. Over the past 25 years – and particularly following the withdrawal of the federal government from most housing development in 1993 – Canada’s population has increased by almost 30% and our national investment in housing has decreased by over 46%. Per capita spending on low-income housing has dropped from $115 to $60.

The report suggests several areas of change including a new federal/provincial/territorial affordable housing framework agreement, investments to target chronically and episodically homeless people, a new affordable housing tax credit and a housing benefit program, as well as investments in Aboriginal housing both on and off reserve.

All of these recommendations have been costed out. In this report we propose a different way of doing things including a housing investment strategy that in the long run would cost the economy much less than the current costs of homelessness. The proposed investments represent an increase in spending from the projected commitments of $2.019 billion to $3.752 billion in 2015/16 with a total investment of about $44 billion over ten years.

For just an additional 88 cents a week ($2.04 total), we can contribute to a realistic solution to homelessness and the affordable housing crisis. This is a small investment to make in the face of the hardships faced by people experiencing homelessness. On Friday we’ll explore what you might be able to do to free up this amount of money every week.

Homelessness in Canada by the Numbers Infographic