Like all communities across Canada, Edmonton has a housing problem. And despite many best efforts, this crisis only continues to worsen.
How can we best understand and fix this issue of (in)access to adequate housing?
The key to understanding and effectively addressing our housing crisis is to take a human rights approach (UNHRC 2019).
One way we can apply a rights based approach is by identifying major trends and emerging challenges that negatively impact housing rights (UNHRC 2019, p 20).
In this series we have covered:
- What Is the Financialization of Housing
- What types of Financialization Exist
- The Role of Transparency (or lack thereof)
- The Advantages in Alberta, as well as in Edmonton, for financialized investors
How Financialized is Edmonton’s Primary Rental Market?
As a reminder, approximately 51% of tenants in the city of Edmonton live in secondary rental housing – an estimated 74,168 households in 2021 (calculated using CMHC, Statistics Canada).
The remaining 49% of tenants live in primary, purpose built (multi-family) rental suites, in apartments and row homes – a total of 70,077 households in 2021 (CMHC).
Based on the work of the AHSL, we found that 37,304 primary rental or multi-family suites in Edmonton were financialized – out of the total rental universe of 78,301 (CMHC).
Estimates as of 2022
In the City of Edmonton, as of 2022, the AHSL estimates that 48% of all purpose built rental suites are owned by financialized landlords – which could be up to more than double the estimated national average!
Click on the chart below to view
Note: National estimates of financialized multi-family housing range between 20 – 30%. And details on the AHSL’s methodology can be viewed here.
- In 2006 81% of all rental suites were less than $999/month
- In 2016 27% of all rental suites were less than $999/month
The figure below shows average rental wage versus the percentage of multi-family suites owned by financialized landlords in the city of Edmonton between 1990 – 2022:
Click on the figure to expand
We can see that there is also a widening of cost in between each type of rental. We also can observe that rises in the cost of rent seem to coincide with the increase of the amount of financialized multi-family housing – which is also highlighted by the graph below (click on chart to view more clearly):
Between 1997 and 2008 rental wage/costs effectively doubled. While Edmonton is often lauded for being affordable, this is not what the data tells us, and this is not the experience of over 68,000 tenant households in Edmonton living in unacceptable housing. And this is especially not the case for women.
For decades, Alberta has maintained the title of the province with the largest gender wage gap across Canada.
If we look at rental wage compared to men’s and women’s average market incomes by age it is clear that women have far less access to housing choices then men as women’s wages have not kept pace with escalating housing costs. This is especially important as this is clearly a barrier for women exiting relationships – further intensified when seeking housing alternatives with children and searching for rental suites with 2 or more bedrooms.
The three graphs below show rental wage for men and women compared with average market income by age. The second chart has the same y axis to show how big the gender wage gap is in Edmonton. The third chart offers a closer look at rental wage and women’s market income.
Click on each graph below to expand
Data source: Statistics Canada. Table 11-10-0239-01 Income of individuals by age group, sex and income source, Canada, provinces and selected census metropolitan areas. Income disaggregated by sex and age was not available for census subdivision (city) so data for Census Metropolitan Area (CMA – Edmonton and surrounding area) was used. Rental wage was calculated using average city rents by year (CMHC).
Realities are even more dire when we look at social assistance rates compared with increasing rental wages:
Click on each graph below to expand
Review panel on the financialization of purpose-built rental housing
The financialization of housing is a key structural driver of our housing crisis in Edmonton.
This is a phenomenon that is largely hidden, secretive, incredibly complex, tedious, confusing, and difficult to understand. This can make it incredibly hard to even begin to identify what is actually going on with housing in our community. In the absence of good information narratives can emerge that are in stark contrast to the realities experienced by households trying to access adequate housing. And takes us even further away from understanding the issues at the heart of our housing crisis, much less solving them.
This is an issue that has caught the attention of the Federal Government.
The National Housing Council just launched its written hearing for the review panel examining the financialization of purpose-built rental housing. The review panel is a new mechanism for rights-based participation – meaning this was intended and created for tenants and households who are most impacted by the financialization of multi-family housing.
Individuals and organizations are encouraged to send in a written submission through mail or email by August 31, 2023.
Note: this blog was updated September 15, 2023
Learn more about the financialization of housing and what this means for Edmonton:
The National Housing Advocate also has excellent resources.