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A look at subsidized housing in Canada

May 19, 2023, 11:00 a.m. (EDT)

In Canada, the need for suitable and affordable housing has been recognized as critically important by all levels of government. More recently, the social challenges directly and indirectly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including lockdown measures, fluctuations in the housing market, impacts on the labour market, and obstacles to finding alternate housing, could all affect the ongoing demand for subsidized housing.

Using data from the 2021 Canadian Housing Survey, we look at the characteristics of Canadians living in subsidized housing.

In 2021, 3% of women were living in subsidized housing, compared with 2% of men

In 2021, 3% of Canadians aged 15 and older, or approximately 842,000 people, were living in subsidized housing at the time of the survey. Of these people, about 507,000 were women, meaning that 3% of women aged 15 and older were living in subsidized housing. This share was higher than the one for men, at 2% (or 335,000 men).

Around one in six people with the lowest income lived in subsidized housing

In 2021, 17% of people in the bottom income quintile (household income less than $26,608) were living in subsidized housing. This was more often the case for women in the bottom income quintile, 19% of whom lived in subsidized housing, than for men in the same quintile (14%).

Experiences of homelessness were closely related to living in subsidized housing

People who have experienced homelessness were more likely to live in subsidized housing. Among women who experienced homelessness, almost one-quarter (24%) were living in subsidized housing in 2021. This was about eight times higher than the rate of women who had never experienced homelessness (3%).

The impact of homelessness was less marked for men, but still significant. In 2021, 16% of men who had experienced homelessness were living in subsidized housing, compared with 2% who had never been homeless.

Neighbourhood satisfaction and sense of safety when walking alone in the neighbourhood after dark were lower among people living in subsidized housing

In 2021, 45% of women living in subsidized housing reported feeling safe when walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark, compared with 61% of women in non-subsidized housing. These proportions were still lower than the proportions for men: 71% of men in subsidized housing and 80% of men in non-subsidized housing reported feeling safe walking in their neighbourhood after dark.

Did you know?

Housing programs based on the Housing First approach involve lifting people out of homelessness, particularly those experiencing chronic homelessness, through supports such as access to subsidized housing. Being homeless is an eligibility criterion for some of these programs.

For a more visual take on the data, consult our infographic on subsidized housing!

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Contact information

For more information, contact the Statistical Information Service (toll-free 1-800-263-1136514-283-8300; or Media Relations (