Canada implements policies to increase affordability of housing and groceries

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: February 16, 2024

A new Leger poll conducted for OMNI news, illustrated the effect of an increasing cost of living on newcomers in Canada. According to the study, 83% of the 1522 newcomers surveyed felt that affordability issues were making settling in Canada more difficult.

Simultaneously, a recent study by Statistics Canada found that more than a third of newcomers who recently arrived in the country were in renting situations where they needed to spend more than a third of their pre-tax income on rent.

On February 6th the federal government announced new policies to help increase affordability for Canadians, and those living in Canada. Similar affordability policies were instituted by the government last year.

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Housing Measures

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced an additional $99 million CAD to the Canada Housing Benefit (CHB), a program that helps make rent more affordable by directly delivering money to low-income renters in Canada.

After this contribution, the total amount put towards the CHB reached $325 million CAD in the fiscal year 2023-2024—which will be received directly by low-income renters through provincial and territorial support plans. The CHB is funded with a cumulative $4.8 billion CAD over eight years.

The addition of more funding for the CHB is the latest in a number of policies that the government has instituted in the hopes of making housing more affordable, in Canada. Among these are:

  • The $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund, which incentivises municipal governments to remove zoning restrictions and increase production of housing units, aiming to build an additional 100,000 new homes in the next three years;
  • The Canadian Mortgage Charter, which outlines specific mortgage relief policies and plans that the government expects banks to enforce and provide to home-buyers who are facing financial difficulty with the mortgage of their principal residence; and
  • The Tax-Free Home Savings Account, which allows first time home buyers to contribute up to $40,000 CAD on a downpayment for their first home, tax free.

2023's fall economic strategy also highlighted strategies to increase the supply of affordable housing in Canada.

Measures for groceries and other essentials

In the same announcement, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Phillipe Champagne announced new research into different corporate practices that might be impacting Canadian consumers shopping for essentials like groceries.

The Minister said that government would be tripling funding to Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organisations—supporting the production of high-quality research on consumer affairs.

More specifically, the organisations will be looking into two kinds of business practices engaged in by businesses:

  • Shrinkflation: The practice of reducing the size or quantity of a product while keeping the price remains the same or higher; and
  • Skimpflation: The practice of using less expensive, and often inferior ingredients to produce or manufacture what appears to be the same product, at the same or even higher.

These measures come at a time when Canada, like most countries across the western world, faces a growing cost in the average cost of living.

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