The Housing Crisis in Canada

The housing crisis has been at the forefront of the media and the minds of almost every worker in Canada, the lack of affordable homes and a homeless crisis are discussed and the social ills behind them are analyzed by “experts”. The discussions usually revolve around how this crisis emerged, everything from placing the blame on drugs, foreign investors, immigrants, and even irresponsibility on the part of homeless individuals. All these social ills are said to be the cause of the crisis, when in reality they are used to obfuscate the root of the problem, capitalism and its current crisis. Bourgeois politicians from every stripe of the political spectrum have their “solutions” to the housing crisis that have their base in their perceived cause of the crisis. The only solution to the housing crisis is a proletariat revolution that could immediately begin reorganizing society by abolishing the capitalist mode of production.

The Housing Issue in Canada Today

The economic crisis and its effects are clearly visible in the housing market, the cost of housing has been affected by an exponential rise in prices in the past two decades, with an increase of an astounding 375%(1). The increase in housing prices came at the end of the last cycle of accumulation in the 1970s and speculation caused an ever-growing push for capitalists to make profits in the housing market as profits in production began to stagnate. Housing prices continued to increase even after a financial crash in 2008, unlike the United States where prices dropped after the crash. The falling rate of profit makes it difficult to make profit, therefore bourgeoisie seek to extract profit wherever they can find it, and since housing makes up a staggering 13% of the Canadian GDP(2), this makes it an extremely profitable area for investment and speculation, which drives up housing prices.

This trend of prices going up has pushed many out of the housing market and has pushed many workers onto the street as rent becomes too high and precarious situations mean one paycheck away from homelessness. In 2022 44% of Canadians reported they are concerned about their ability to afford housing or rent(3). With wages not increasing and inflation dropping the price of real wages this is pushing necessities such as food and shelter further out of the reach of workers. All whilst investors outrank first-time buyers on the housing market, becoming number one among purchasers of new homes in order to either rent them at exorbitant prices, or renovate and sell them for a massive mark up in price. Workers are driven destitute and to poverty, and investors profit by pushing them out of the market. Some activists have complained and called for an increase in building affordable housing, yet developers have no desire to as there is simply no profit in affordable housing for workers. If there is no profit in housing people, and when housing is a commodity like everything else in capitalism, workers suffer.

Quality of Housing

As capitalism spirals and the housing market remains a last resort sector for profit, the conditions of housing deteriorate as prices go up and developers and landlords attempt to create cheaper housing for more profit The concrete facts are that between 1.4 and 4.4 million people in Canada are in need of "quality housing"(4). Concrete examples of living conditions deteriorating are seen in Calgary Alberta where a massive increase in frostbite cases, from 412 in 2020-2021, to 740 in 2022-2023, doctors say this is directly related to poor housing conditions(5). In Hamilton Ontario tenants went an astounding 12 weeks with no water from December 18th-March 24th, during this abuse of the tenants the landlord pressured them to move out to attempt to renovate and increase rent (renoviction). The abuse of the landlord was acknowledged by the city of Hamilton, and the mayor called it a “black eye for the city” on December 30th, then continued to ignore the tenants and refused to step in and hire a plumber or even force the landlord to act(6). These are but two examples of the deteriorating conditions faced by workers during the housing crisis, one does not need to look far to see families and students shoved into increasingly cramped rooms to keep their cost of living low while their landlords scrape any profit, they can from them.

Capitalism's decline either brings outright homelessness or completely degrades the living conditions of workers in order to cut repair costs or drive-up property value through renovations, all in an attempt to gain any amount of profit.

Tents and Homelessness

A major issue that is brought on by the housing crisis is the building of tent cities, or shanty towns in some cases. These tents and shanty towns can be seen in many parks and public streets in major cities. To some, these tents are seen as a temporary solution, and many organizations sprout to try to engage in defense of these communities of tents and shelters. Examples of this have been seen in defending homeless people in Toronto from police attacks and providing charity for them in Hamilton by giving out tents. The defense of these people is extremely important, as they are on the frontlines of a capital crisis, left without housing or work. A problem that arises is these defensive organizations, these activists, do not have a solution, their solution is defense. They do not seek to abolish the conditions that created homelessness and poverty, but rather to defend people against the onslaught of police brutality and removal from their tents. They must realize that we cannot keep calling out for the state to legalize people living in parks, but to fight and struggle for a world where no one should have to live in a park. Rather than defensive struggles being the end goal, we must find the root of the issue (capitalist crisis) and destroy the root.


Every party on the political spectrum has commented or provided “solutions” to the housing issue in Canada today, yet none of their solutions leave the paradigm of how to manage capital. The conservatives blame high taxes for the lack of money going into the pockets of workers therefore leading to less spending. They promise to cut taxes to give workers “more money” This “more money” comes at the price of defunding any social benefits, and gutting any social infrastructure workers have and will lead to workers spending more on these social benefits, such as pharmaceutical, medical, dental, etc. as they become privatized. The liberals want to deregulate the market and provide tax incentives/breaks to builders in an attempt to make it profitable to build social housing. The developers who are capitalists themselves have no interest in building housing as long as it is not profitable will build only the cheapest and poor quality housing, if they even deem it profitable to build. The social democrats have backed the liberal plans, or have called for more state intervention in the economy to build housing. These large investments in affordable housing are far from being realized and only seek to prolong capitalism and push the crisis further and further down the road. All of these solutions merely ignore the real issue, the capitalist economic system, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall that has pushed housing out of reach for many workers for decades and has made the housing market run rampant with speculation as it increasingly becomes a place to make more and more profits. Bourgeois solutions are rooted in perceived social ills that have led to the crisis (as the capitalist cannot admit the system is the problem) The words of Engles ring truer today when he wrote “Whoever declares that the capitalist mode of production, the “iron laws” of present-day bourgeois society, are inviolable, and yet at the same time would like to abolish their unpleasant but necessary consequences, has no other resource but to deliver moral sermons to the capitalists, moral sermons whose emotional effects immediately evaporate under the influence of private interests and, if necessary, of competition"(7).

Class Solution

We as communists seek a solution along class lines, a solution that sees the root of the issue in the capitalist mode of production, and the capitalists’ assault upon the conditions of the working class by seeking constant profits in the housing market. A real example of the working class attempting to deal with housing can be seen in the early days of the Russian Revolution. The early days of the Russian Revolution saw committees formed to deal with housing, “ House committees for the block have sprung up spontaneously”(8). These committees delegated houses based on need, they utilized every measure to accommodate any homeless, workers who lived in poor living conditions, and even families, all based on need. They even utilized vacant buildings (which in Canada today there are around 1.3 million)(9) and apartments to deal immediately with the housing problem. They also managed utilities and any other necessary housing needs through the committees which all workers of an area are a part of. We can take the lessons of the early Russian Revolution and see how today the only solution would lay in something similar, committees being formed and utilizing any space to house those who need it, a system based upon needs rather than profit, organized by all workers of the area utilizing any resource.

Today there are half-struggles or struggles that do not engage with the root of the crisis, such as asking for parks to be used for homeless people in tents, defending against rent increases, and an array of other defensive struggles against capital. These defensive struggles are seen as the end goal by many, and although they are necessary, we must also engage with these struggles by highlighting that it is the capitalist mode of production that has gotten the working class here, and only by its destruction can the working class free itself from the crisis and the defensive struggles We must abolish capitalism and rid the world of the class of capitalists who wage an endless assaults upon the working class under the banner of constant profit. Only once this struggle is waged can the housing issue be addressed by the working class, by a society that has shaken off capital and wage labour. A society where profit does not drive endless speculation and profit-seeking in the housing market, where the need to house every person is the drive to establish housing for all.










(7) Friedrich Engels, the housing question

(8) Pankhurst, S. (n.d.). Housing & the Workers’ Revolution Housing in Capitalist Britain and Bolshevik Russia.

(9) Punwasi, S. (2022, February 16). New Data Shows Canada still has 1.3 million vacant homes, some improvements seen.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024