Expert Analysis: Why Renters Report Lower Quality of Life

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Living in rental accommodations can often come with its own set of challenges, a reality that many are all too familiar with.

A recent study conducted by Statistics Canada sheds light on the disparities in quality of life between renters and homeowners. According to the findings, Canadian renters frequently express financial strain, a revelation that comes as no surprise to advocates.

Megan Kee, an organizer with the Toronto-based group No Demovictions, characterizes the experience as “constant uncertainty,” emphasizing the profound impact it can have on one’s well-being. “Having a lack of stability in general can be extremely stressful if you don’t know that you’re going to be living in the same place from year to year,” she remarks.

Kee shares her own ordeal, recounting her seven-year residency in an apartment building where she believed she had found security, only to face the looming threat of eviction due to demolition and subsequent condo development.

The study reveals stark disparities between renters and homeowners, with renters being 15 percent more likely to struggle with meeting financial obligations and over 11 points less likely to report high overall life satisfaction.

This data, collected between 2021 and 2022, predates the current escalation of rent and mortgage rates, indicating a potentially worsening situation for renters.

Additionally, renters are shown to have a weaker sense of community belonging and are more prone to feelings of isolation, a consequence attributed to their uncertain housing circumstances.

Douglas Kwan, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, emphasizes the precarious position renters often find themselves in. “They have nowhere to go if their rent becomes unaffordable, and they’re stuck in a situation where it may be affordable to them, but the circumstances in which they live are not ideal,” Kwan explains.

Catia Antunes, a resident of Banff, Alberta, shares her struggle with securing housing, having been on an apartment waiting list for two years before finding accommodation just in time for the arrival of her new baby. Banff faces a shortage of approximately 1,000 housing units, contributing to the stress and uncertainty experienced by its residents.

On the day of the study’s release, Housing Minister Sean Fraser announced initiatives to expedite the construction of 400 homes over the next four years in six rural Albertan communities, acknowledging the pressing need for accessible housing options.

“There’s a level of uncertainty facing renters that are not the same as homeowners, where they have more control over their finances, over the state and condition of their home,” Kwan observes.

The report further underscores the financial burden faced by Canadians, as shelter costs consume a significant portion of household incomes, leaving many struggling to make ends meet.

In major urban centers like Toronto and Vancouver, renters consistently report lower quality of life scores compared to their counterparts in other regions of the provinces, highlighting the acute challenges faced by renters in these competitive housing markets.

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