Centering Renters’ Experiences in a Hot Housing Market

Posted on Friday, October 27th, 2023

Headshot of Mervyn Horgan, who stands outside with a blue polo shirt and smiles.
Dr. Mervyn Horgan

Housing affordability has been top of mind for many Canadians as an already challenging market was made even worse during the pandemic. But conversations about rising mortgage rates and house prices tend to overlook an important segment of the rental market: renters.  

Renters make up a signification portion of the population; one-third of Canadian households rent their home.1 Across the country, renters feel the squeeze of rapidly rising rents, with almost half of renters in Ontario spending over 30% of their income on shelter costs.2 As a result, any affordable housing strategy needs to take into account the experiences of renters to fully address the current housing crisis in Canada. 

University of Guelph sociologist Dr. Mervyn Horgan is working with a team of Canadian and international researchers to understand how tenants across the Greater Golden Horseshoe experience renting in the midst of a hot housing market and ultimately inform housing policy. 

“Despite the fact that close to half of Canadian renters spend over 30% of their income on rent, renters are surprisingly absent from the affordable housing policy debate and only tend to make the news when they are subject to illegal evictions, substandard housing conditions, or when they refuse to pay their rent,” said Horgan. “The Rental Experience Project will help us develop deep insights into the experiences of the 5 million Canadian households who rent.” 

To conduct this research, the Rental Experience Project has received an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Supported by this funding, the research team will work with and interview a panel of renters over three years across a range of different renting scenarios: market rent with large private landlords, market rent with small private ‘mom and pop’ landlords, and non-market rental. 

“By working with renters across a range of rental scenarios, we’ll be better able to understand how different rental arrangements impact other areas of renters’ lives. We expect someone who has substantial input into the management of their housing and stable affordable rent is likely going to have a different experience than someone renting from a large real estate investment trust that owns thousands of rental units. Currently we know very little about how these different kinds of rental scenarios might have different impacts on renters’ everyday lives,” said Horgan. 

The team is confident that by gathering longitudinal data that compares different rental scenarios, policy makers, planners, housing advocates and scholars will gain a deepened understanding of the varieties of experiences within Canada’s rapidly changing rental sector. This will contribute to making more effective policy change and a more just housing system. 

1. Statistics Canada 

2. Statistics Canada  

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