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A Foot in the Door: Canadians on the Housing Brink


A degree and a full-time job still weren't enough for 33-year-old Oanh Pham and her daughter to find safe, liveable housing. Millennial families are one of eight housing-stressed demographics profiled in this series.

Can you afford your home? By the measure that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) uses, if you have to spend more than 30 per cent of your income on suitable shelter, you're in "core housing need." You're paying more than you can afford for your home.

By CMHC's count, more than one-quarter of all Canadians who rent, and one in 15 who own their home, can't afford where they live. And in most cases it's not because they are living beyond their means.

Affordable housing used to be an accepted right in Canada. For many, it's falling ever further out of reach -- a silent national crisis. In this election-year series, the Tyee Solutions Society looks at what's failed, and how it can be fixed.

Vancouver is North America's capital of unaffordable housing. But Toronto's young millennials also struggle. So do Canadians who follow their jobs to boomtowns surrounded by undeveloped real estate in all directions. Certain seniors, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and two-spirited teens, and urban aboriginals are among demographic communities that face particular challenges finding housing.

This Tyee Solutions Society series takes up-close and sometimes highly personal looks at a few of these communities.

Later in this year-long investigative project, we'll also learn what some people are doing to put a secure roof over the head of every Canadian. We'll explore tactics other countries are using. And we'll check in with all the major parties asking for your vote to see how each proposes to close the growing gap between available shelter and what millions of Canadians can afford.

This series is produced by Tyee Solutions Society. It was made possible through the support of the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., the Catherine Donnelly Foundation, Vancity Credit Union, the Aboriginal Housing Management Association, the Vancouver Foundation, and in partnership with Columbia Institute. TSS funders neither influence nor endorse the particular content of TSS reporting. Other publications wishing to publish this story or other TSS produced articles, please visit for contacts and information.

In This Series



A Foot in the Door: Canadians on the Housing Brink

Amid national affordability crisis, new series spotlights eight housing-stressed demographics.

By Katie Hyslop, Chris Wood and David P. Ball, 22 Jun 2015


Oanh Pham and her daughter

A Foot in the Door: Millennial Families Priced Out of Cities

Renters and aspiring homeowners face rising costs, but some are discovering workarounds. Second in a series.

By David P. Ball, 23 Jun 2015



A Foot in the Door: Homeless Youth in and out of the Closet

More than one in five homeless young Canadians are LGBTQ2S. How do we get them into safe housing? Latest in a series.

By Katie Hyslop, 24 Jun 2015


Vancouver's Maxine Shearer

A Foot in the Door: For Aging Renters, Housing Costs Far from Fixed

Renters in Canada's 'wealthiest generation' more vulnerable than home-owning peers.

By Katie Hyslop, 25 Jun 2015



A Foot in the Door: 'Status' Key to Indigenous Housing

Off-reserve support just out of reach for some aboriginal urbanites. Latest in a series.

By Katie Hyslop, 26 Jun 2015



A Foot in the Door: Seniors Ask, 'Will I Have to Move?'

It's not just money that worries seniors. Age-unfriendly cities add to housing fears. Latest in a series.

By David P. Ball, 29 Jun 2015



A Foot in the Door: Next Aboriginal Generation's Social Leap

They're netting more degrees than ever, but face greater housing barriers than the average millennial. Latest in a series.

By David P. Ball, 30 Jun 2015



A Foot in the Door: From Jailhouse to No House

As parole declines, a cycle persists: cell to street and back again. Latest in a series.

By Katie Hyslop, 1 Jul 2015



A Foot in the Door: Housing in Boomtowns a 'Rollercoaster'

Alberta's oilsands, Newfoundland's mines, BC forests: how to manage a housing rush -- and how not to. Latest in a series.

By David P. Ball, 2 Jul 2015



A Foot in the Door: An Unaffordable Country's Next Steps

Housing is personal, but some problems go coast-to-coast and demand a national response.

By David P. Ball, Chris Wood and Katie Hyslop, 3 Jul 2015