Housing Affordability

Poverty in Niagara

The ability of individuals and families to access housing that meets their needs in terms of adequacy, suitability and affordability is linked to income levels. Put simply, the more money a household has, the more housing choice it has.

2.1 Niagara Social Assistance Data

2.1a Ontario Works

Niagara Social Assistance Data from Ontario Works

2.1b Employment Insurance

Niagara Social Assistance Data from Employment Insurance

Sources: Niagara Region Community Services, Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities; Statistics Canada, CANSIM276-0030

Chart 2.1a shows average Ontario Works caseloads and 2.1b shows the number of Employment Insurance recipients in Niagara from 2003 to the year-end of the most recent data year available. The peak of Employment Insurance recipients occurred in 2009 during the economic downturn, but the trend since 2010 has seen the number of recipients decreasing each year. On the other hand, the number of Ontario Works cases has continued to rise despite improved economic conditions after 2009. These trends may be in part due to Employment Insurance benefits being exhausted (usually within less than a year) and if the individual is unable to find work, they access social assistance such as Ontario Works and remain on the caseload until they can exit to employment.

2.2 Niagara Social Assistance Data - Ontario Disability Support Program

Niagara Social Assistance Data Ontario Disability Support Program

Sources: Niagara Region Community Services

Chart 2.2 shows the average Ontario Disability Support Program caseload in Niagara from 2003 to 2013. The Ontario Disability Support Program caseload has increased each year since 2003 and it is expected this trend will continue in the near term given local economic conditions and the sustained efforts of the Ontario Works office to facilitate Ontario Disability Support Program applications for disabled individuals receiving Ontario Works.

Table: 2.1 2010 Low Income Measure

Number of persons in household Low Income Measure
One person 22,160
Two persons 31,339
Three persons 38,382
Four persons 44,320
Five persons 49,551
Six persons 54,281
Seven or more persons 58,630
Source: Statistics Canada, Low Income Measure before Tax 2010

Statistics Canada defines low income measure as "a fixed percentage (50 per cent) of median adjusted total income of households observed at the person level, where 'adjusted' indicates that a household's needs are taken into account".

In 2012 the percentage of the population living below the Low Income Measure before taxes was: 17.6 per cent (roughly 67,840 persons).

Source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM 111-0015

Core Housing Need

2.2 Households in Core Housing Need

2.2a Niagara Households

Percentage of Population in Core Housing Need

2.2b Niagara versus Other Consolidated Municipal Service Managers with Similar Population Size

Number of Population in Core Housing Need compared to other Consolidated Municipal Service Managers

Source: Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation based on Statistics Canada 2011 National Household Survey

A household is considered to be in core housing need if any one of the following three conditions is met:

  1. Affordability Problem: more than 30 per cent of income is spent on housing
  2. Suitability Problem: housing is too small for the size of the household
  3. Adequacy Problem: housing is in need of major repair

Deep core housing need is reached when households are spending more than 50 per cent of their income on housing.

Housing Wage

A housing wage is the gross hourly wage necessary to afford the average market rent in Niagara without paying more than 30 per cent of gross household income on rent.

In Niagara the average rent for a bachelor unit was $586.00 in 2014 (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Rental Market Report: Ontario Highlights, Fall 2014) In order to afford this rent an individual would need to earn $13.02/hour* which equals a discrepancy of $2.02/hour for individuals earning minimum wage in Ontario. A housing wage for a two bedroom unit ($892/ month) in Niagara would be $19.82/hour *if only one person is working. At the current minimum wage in Ontario, an individual will only earn $21,450 and be able to afford rent less than $536 a month.

*Calculations assume a 37.5 hour work week.

Based on the income distribution of individuals in Niagara from 2011 National Household Survey data, roughly 36 per cent of individuals have an income that is below $20,000. These individuals have an income that is less than the yearly income of those making the current minimum wage. This may be because individuals are unable to find full time employment, are relying on lower paying service jobs or are on social assistance. Current rental prices in Niagara are unaffordable for many low income earners and are likely to be in core housing need.

Housing Market Trends

The characteristics of the housing market, such as vacancy and rental rates have a direct impact on the affordability of renting and home ownership. This section presents statistics on Niagara's market trends.

Rental Market Vacancy

2.3 Niagara Rental Market Vacancy Rates, 2007-2014

Niagara Rental Market Vacancy Rates, 2007-2014

Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Rental Market Report 2013

Vacancy rate indicates the number of units that are not being occupied in the rental housing market. A healthy vacancy rate is usually between 2.5 and 3 percent; in this range, a reasonable supply of different types of rental units at various rent levels is available. When the vacancy rate moves above 3 per cent, there tends to be greater choice and pressure for landlords to reduce rents - however, if too high, landlords may no longer find operating rental housing to be viable and new landlords are discouraged from entering the rental housing market. A vacancy rate below 2.5 percent indicates that there is less choice for renters in terms of unit types and affordability, and there is upward pressure on rent levels making rental housing less and less affordable.

Between 2007 and 2010 rental vacancy rates in Niagara were relatively stable, increasing only slightly over that time. In 2011 the vacancy rate dropped to 3.2 percent, but returned to a higher level in 2012 and 2013 (4.0 per cent and 4.1 per cent respectively) and decreased slightly thereafter (to 3.6 per cent in 2014).

Despite the relatively high vacancy rate, rents are not affordable for many Niagara households, and in particular the households who rely on social assistance. Many people are not able to afford current market rent and therefore cannot take advantage of vacancies.

The 3.6 per cent average, however, hides the full story. In general, vacancy rates for one bedroom increased modestly, while two and three bedroom units decreased by almost or more than one per cent which reflected the supply of each type of rental unit. According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, income has not been keeping pace with the cost of homeownership which resulted in a greater demand in the rental market, particularly with the two and three bedroom units.

Rent

2.4 Average Rent in Niagara and Ontario, 2014

Average Rent in Niagara and Ontario, 2014

Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Rental Market Report Ontario Fall 2014

In Niagara rental prices are between 18 per cent and 27 per cent lower than the average rental prices in Ontario. However with Niagara's median income per tax filer being 19 per cent lower than the Ontario median employment income of $32,140 rental housing remains unaffordable for many residents (Statistics Canada, CANSIM 111-0024).

2.5 Average Rent Two Bedroom Units, 2007-2014

Average Rent 2 Bedroom Units, 2007-2014

Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Rental Market Report 2007-2013;

Rental cost for a two bedroom unit is often used as a benchmark for describing the rental market. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Rental Market Report, as indicated earlier, the average rent for a two bedroom unit in for Niagara 2014 was $892/month. This represents an increase of two per cent over 2013 (a greater increase compared to the year-over-year difference in 2013 of one per cent).

2.6 Per Cent Change in Two Bedroom Rent versus Per Cent Change in Consumer Price Index

Per cent change in two bedroom rent versus Per cent change in Consumer Price Index

Source: Statistics Canada, Consumer Price Index, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Rental Market Reports, historical summary

The Consumer Price Index is provided as a benchmark to help contextualize other data provided in this report that relates to dollar values, such as incomes and housing costs.

The Consumer Price index shows the cost of living increasing on a continual basis each year. The increase in rent of a two bedroom unit has at times been significantly higher than the overall increases in cost of living. However, 2014 saw a modest rise in average rent that was slightly below the Consumer Price Index.

Home Ownership

2.7 Average Residential Price on Multiple Listing Service, 2007-2016F

Average Residential Price on Multiple Listing Service , 2007-2016F

Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Housing Market Outlook 2009 - 2014

Housing prices are relatively low in most parts of the region when compared to Ontario averages.

However, within Niagara, the average cost to purchase a home has increased by over $36,000 between 2007 and 2013. This is an 18 per cent increase in the cost of buying a home. Between 2007 and 2013 the consumer price index went up roughly 7.5 per cent. In Ontario the average cost of buying a home increased by $102,937 over that same period of time, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Housing Market Outlook. This represents a 34 per cent increase in the cost of buying a home.


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