Can you survive on minimum wage in the Halton Region?
The short answer is no.
Over the past few years, the growing gap between wages and shelter costs has been dominating headlines and prompting serious discussions at all levels of government. In fact a recent report revealed that Burlington specifically is a pricey place for renters.
Now, a recently-released study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives indicates that minimum wage earners (such as Ontario residents who earn $14 an hour) absolutely cannot afford apartments in Canada’s major cities— the Halton Region included.
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The new report maps rental affordability in neighbourhoods across Canada by calculating the “rental wage,” which is the hourly wage needed to afford an average apartment without spending more than 30 per cent of one’s earnings.
The study finds that across all of Canada, the average wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment is $22.40 an hour, or $20.20 an hour for an average one-bedroom.
However, the study broke things down a little bit further.
When it comes to the Halton Region specifically, here’s what the study revealed.
The rental wage in Burlington northwest is $24.86 an hour, meaning that a full-time minimum-wage worker would need to clock 71 hours a week to afford their rent. In Burlington east, the rental wage is $33.01 an hour, a full-time minimum-wage worker would need to clock 94 hours a week. In southwest Burlington, the rental wage is $27.11 an hour (77 hours a week). And in Aldershot, the rental wage is $26.93 (77 hours a week).
In Milton and Halton Hills, the rental wage is $26.17 (75 hours a week).
In Oakville (excluding Bronte) the rental wage is $31.75 an hour (91 hours a week), and in Bronte, the wage is $33.73 (96 hours a week).
“In no GTA neighbourhood could a full-time minimum-wage worker find an affordable one or two-bedroom apartment to rent,” the study says.
However, Halton residents are not alone.
The study points out that the rental wage is much higher than the Canadian average in a host of cities.
A full-time worker in Vancouver would need to make $35.43 an hour to afford an average-priced two-bedroom apartment. That means a minimum-wage worker in Vancouver would have to work 84 hours a week to afford the average-priced one-bedroom apartment or 112 hours a week for a two-bedroom apartment.
The next highest average rental wages are found in Toronto ($33.70/hr), Victoria, BC ($28.47/hr), Calgary ($26.97/hr) and Ottawa ($26.08/hr).
In Ontario, minimum wage workers across the province would have to make $27.34 an hour to afford a two-bedroom unit (that’s almost double what they’re earning right now).
To afford a unit in Ontario, lower-income earners would need to work 78 hours a week.
So, where can minimum-wage earners get by?
There are only 24 of 795 neighbourhoods (3 per cent) in Canada where a full-time minimum-wage worker can afford to rent an average two-bedroom apartment, and in only 70 neighbourhoods (9 per cent) can they afford a one-bedroom.
One in four Canadians earn within $3 of their province’s minimum wage.
There are no neighbourhoods in Canada’s biggest cities (Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver) where a full-time minimum-wage worker could afford either a modest one- or two-bedroom apartment.
Outside of Sudbury and St. Catharines (both in Ontario) affordable neighbourhoods are all located in smaller Quebec cities. Some of those cities include Sherbrooke, Saguenay and Trois-Rivieres.
The situation, the report notes, is very serious—especially since two-bedroom units are often sought by single-parent families.
“Everyone deserves a decent place to live. The two-bedroom apartment therefore serves as a proxy for various family types in Canada, since it offers a modest amount of room for multiple living arrangements,” the report reads.
“Many households rely on only one income but contain more than one person–single-parent families, for example, or an adult caring for a senior. A sole income earner working full time should be able to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment for their family in a country as rich as Canada. But in most Canadian cities, including Canada’s largest metropolitan areas of Toronto and Vancouver, there are no neighbourhoods where it is possible to afford a one- or two-bedroom unit on a single minimum wage.”
While the data is concerning, an important question remains: What can be done to address—and ultimately fix—the mounting affordability crisis sweeping across the country?
The short answer: Produce more rental housing.
Fortunately for Canadians who are struggling, various levels of government are working to alleviate the pressure.
The report notes that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has introduced four long-term programs devoted to new affordable units: the National Housing Co-investment Fund, the Rental Construction Financing Initiative, the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund, and the Federal Lands Initiative.
These programs jointly promise to deliver more than 110,500 new units by 2027-28.
The report says that combined with other provincial and federal programs, 15,100 and 16,600 new affordable units received commitments in 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively–three-quarters of the 20,000 affordable units built each year between 1970 and the early 1990s.
The report also says the new Canada Housing Benefit–a cash supplement to low-income renters–could take the edge off housing cost increases for some renters while the country waits for federally funded construction programs to kick into gear.
That said, the report argues that the benefit’s tight budget cap and strict eligibility requirements will push most low-income renters from the queue.
“In the long term, rental subsidies are no substitute for the construction of new affordable housing, which would increase vacancy rates, cool rental prices and allow more people to live closer to where they work,” the report notes.
Are you having trouble making ends meet in Halton?