Will Canada be able to house all the immigrants it hopes to welcome by 2025?

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: February 21, 2023

According to Canada’s latest Immigration Levels Plan for 2023-2025, the country hopes to welcome a record-breaking number of immigrants over the next three years, with annual targets set at no less than 465,000 and a milestone goal of 500,000 new permanent residents in 2025.

In short, these high targets are in place to help Canada compensate for its aging population and low fertility rate, which are compromising the country’s natural labour force. In other words, Canada requires such lofty immigration targets to help sustain the labour market in this country and ensure that the national economy remains strong.

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On the flip side of Canada’s need for immigrants, however, is the concern that Canada may not be able to support the delivery of some of the most basic needs that an influx of newcomers would have. Namely, there is concern among many that Canada will struggle to provide adequate housing for the many immigrants that it aims to welcome between now and 2025. Additionally, immigrants themselves are similarly concerned about Canada’s ability to sustain them if they make the life-altering decision to start a new life in this country.

What seems to be the problem?

Immigrants and Canadians alike are worried that this country will not be able to handle the housing needs of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants Canada seeks to welcome in a few short years.

Concern regarding this issue has been persistent for some time now, typified by stories such as that of Palestinian refugee Aziza Abu Sirdana. In early November 2022, Abu Sirdana’s desperation for someone to acknowledge her housing struggle reached a boiling point during a meeting involving the federal government.

After seven months of living in a refugee hostel west of Toronto, Abu Sirdana stabbed herself in front of a government official from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) hoping to get IRCC’s attention. In an interview with CTV News, Abu Sirdana questioned, rhetorically, “if you [the government] know that there’s no suitable place for me to stay why did you accept me to come [to Canada]?”

Thankfully, in Abu Sirdana’s case, her plea for help was eventually answered by a family in Ottawa later that month, who allowed the Gaza-born refugee to move in with them, according to a follow-up story published by CTV on November 29.

Still, more questions and concerns persist regarding Canada’s ability to house an increasing number of new immigrants. In fact, a story from November by CBC News articulated that rising immigration “targets have … spiked anxiety about where all these new citizens will make their homes, given the country's ongoing housing crisis.”

In the same story from just two months ago, CBC spoke to a property tax specialist in British Columbia who said “we build approximately 265,000 homes per year, and here we are talking about 500,000 immigrants coming in per year. We're under-supplied before we even talk about this immigrant influx". Regrettably, this statement only further establishes the growing level of concern among Canadians that the government may struggle to support an influx of immigrants with the housing they need to establish comfortable new lives across this country.

What is Canada doing to work towards solving this housing problem?

Canada’s biggest province is currently taking initial strides toward addressing this housing problem in Ontario, thanks to a new $3.5+ million investment into the construction industry as part of the federal government’s housing strategy.

On October 6, 2022, Ontario announced a $3.7 million investment into Merit Ontario, “an organization that supports contractors who employ both unionized and non-unionized workers, to expand their online job bank [and] match thousands of people with construction jobs at more than 300 small, medium and large employers.”

This investment, designed to “help up to 2,500 workers start or advance in well-paying careers” in construction will aid the province in “helping deliver [on its] ambitious infrastructure plans”, which include building 1.5 million homes by 2031.

Looking ahead

Efforts like the financial investment made in Ontario last year represent a productive initial step toward rectifying the housing crisis that currently plagues this country.

Canada’s federal government has also recently imposed a two-year purchasing ban on some non-Canadians seeking to purchase certain residential real estate. This move, which restricts people who are not either Canadian permanent residents or citizens from purchasing residential real estate in Canada, is intended to help make housing in this country more affordable for both naturalized Canadians and immigrants alike. Both this purchasing ban and the investment by the Ontario government are aimed at creating more room in the Canadian housing market for incoming Canadians over the next few years.

Note: The purchasing ban includes exemptions for foreign workers and international students inside Canada

Ultimately, although Canada will not be able to see the full impact of these housing investments and initiatives right away, time will soon tell if such actions as those described above are enough to help deliver on Canada’s goal of creating enough infrastructure to support the country’s ambitious immigration targets between now and 2025.

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