Housing prices have been soaring and affordable homes are out of reach for most Canadians. In fact, housing prices have grown by 80% Canada-wide since their lows in the winter of 2009, and become totally out of reach in most urban centres, and in rural communities. Until we make some major changes as a society, these problems might not be able to be remedied.
One of the causes and symptoms of housing prices skyrocketing to such unaffordable levels is a process called financialization. It’s a worldwide problem right now, and normal citizens are feeling the dire effects of financialization from the UK to Japan. While this may seem like a clinical term in a textbook, this is a very real problem that is afflicting the Canadian housing market and housing markets on a global scale.
Financialization of housing is when a home is viewed as a money making commodity rather than a place where individuals and their families have a right to live and thrive together. Housing isn’t seen as a necessity, but a luxury.
Financialization of housing has a direct negative effect on every person’s right to adequate housing, explained Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha in a report to the UN. The UN has the right to adequate housing outlined as a fundamental human right, which is enshrined in human rights laws worldwide.
In 2020, Ms. Leilani Farha, former Special Rapporteur on adequate housing presented a special report on affordable housing to the UN wrote an opinion piece for the Guardian where she explained that by not stopping financiazarion as it happens, the government fails to protect citizens from corporate entities. Her claims were bold, and correct. Here in Canada we are feeling the dire impacts.
In Canada, housing is viewed as an investment. Big corporations build and sell homes for increasingly unaffordable prices to generate profit rather than to create sustainable environments for everyone. Individuals and families aren’t the problem here: we’re up against juggernauts.
What this looks like in Ontario
We don’t have to look far for examples of housing being used as a commodity. One prime example of adequate housing being exploited as a luxury, rather than a right, takes place at home in Ontario.
One Ontario land developer is buying up single-family homes across the province to turn the properties into rentals. Core Development recently announced that they plan to purchase $1 billion worth of properties for this purpose.
Core Development is making these purchases in mid-sized cities like London and Guelph, as well as Hamilton. The properties being bought are single-level homes and will be divided into two or more units.
Mid-sized cities are growing in popularity as homes in big cities like Toronto are more expensive than ever. The average home in Toronto is $1 million. Since big-city living is so unattainable, people are moving to mid-sized cities in search of housing.
Barrie, one of the cities Core is targeting, has an average home sale price of $760,000 as of June 2021. It is possible that this corporation could out-bid average families and drive up prices in the area.
For renters, the average price is $1,350 for a three-bedroom basement apartment. Core will be renting the same units out for $1600.
Core would be charging above the normal price, and this could impact people all across Barrie and all of the communities where these rentals will take place. Every family needs to feel strength, stability, and self-reliance. Paying rent above what is average for an area in a house that a giant corporation bought isn’t a good way to empower people to have futures full of possibilities.
The rentals could even directly impact the communities we work with, as Core plans to expand its rental scheme into other Ontario communities and other provinces by 2022.
In Ontario, we already have numerous barriers to affordable housing for everyone. Each year, the obstacles only become steeper. The average housing price in Canada is up 38% from last year, according to the CREA.
Having a giant corporation make affordable housing and homeownership even more of a dream for Ontarians isn’t the answer to the average person’s problems. These rentals are just another factor in the financialization of houses. Rather than being an essential human right and a place where families can live and grow together, housing is seen as a commodity and a way to make income.
Where do we go from here?
Housing can provide families with the means of doing more, and having equity in their home as individuals, and being secure. It also provides safety from the severe elements we experience each season, and keeps Ontarians safe. This is why everyone has the right to housing, because home is where everything begins.
Only when decent, affordable homes are viewed as an integral part of our communities will the housing crisis begin to get better for everyone. By creating housing beyond just a build, and fostering communities where each member is able to thrive we can create a housing environment that is better for everyone. It means taking a step back from viewing housing and property as form of profit, and choosing to be a steward of the land and an active member of the community.
About Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga-Dufferin
Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga-Dufferin is a proud member of our national organization Habitat Canada and is one of 54 local Habitat affiliates across our country. Habitat for Humanity brings communities together to help families build strength, stability, and independence through affordable homeownership. We provide a solid foundation for better, healthier lives in Canada and around the world. You can find out more about Habitat Canada at habitat.ca.