According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Company (CMHC) housing is considered to be affordable when a household spends less than 30% of its pre-tax income on adequate shelter. Households that spend more than 30% of their income on shelter are deemed to be in core housing need. Those that spend 50% or more on shelter are in severe housing need. Unfortunately, although most people are able to obtain housing through the private market (rental or home ownership), it isn’t adequate for everyone. CMHC reported in 2010 that over 27% of Canadian households (more than 1 in 4) live in core housing need; 10.5% (about 380, 600 households) are in severe housing need.
In addition to the affordability standard of 30%, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has developed standards for adequacy (the housing does not require major repairs) and suitability (the housing is sufficient in size and has enough bedrooms) when evaluating a household’s situation.
The terms affordable housing and social housing are often confused. While all social housing is affordable, the term ‘social housing’ refers more specifically to housing that is subsidized by a level of government.
Affordable housing is a much broader term and includes housing provided by the private, public and not-for-profit sectors as well as all forms of housing tenure (ie. rental, ownership and cooperative ownership). It also includes temporary as well as permanent housing. In other words, the term "affordable housing" can refer to any part of the housing continuum from temporary emergency shelters through transition housing, supportive housing, subsidized housing, market rental housing or market home ownership.
The cancellation of the federal social housing program in 1993 has resulted in drastic reductions in the amount of affordable housing available and can be linked very directly to the increase in homelessness.
Although the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has limited affordable housing programs in place now (Affordable Housing Initiative, 2001-2011 and The Investment in Affordable Housing (2011-2014, 2014-2019)