Apartment rentals are increasingly unaffordable across Canada and Winnipeg is no exception, a new study shows.
A full-time, minimum-wage earner living in any major city would likely have to spend more than 30 per cent of their income on rent, according to the report released Thursday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Even in smaller cities, such as Winnipeg, rental costs surpass minimum wage when calculated by the hour.
This "rental wage," as it’s called in the report, is at a national average of $22.40 per hour for a two-bedroom apartment.
In Winnipeg, it’s $22.97 per hour — meaning a minimum-wage worker (who earns $11.35/hr) would have to work 81 hours a week to afford to rent the apartment.
There are no neighbourhoods in Winnipeg where someone earning minimum wage could afford to live on their own in a two-bedroom apartment, working a 40-hour week. The most affordable apartments are in Point Douglas and the West End, where the rental wage is around $14. Rent is most expensive in Tuxedo at $27.35 per hour, but the rental wage in most Winnipeg neighbourhoods is between $20-$25 per hour.
The think tank is trying to draw attention to a lack of affordable and subsidized housing in Canada, as well as insufficient minimum wages.
About 5.4 per cent of workers in Manitoba were earning minimum wage in 2015, according to Statistics Canada data.
It’s taken a long time to try to increase the number of affordable housing units available in the province, said Molly McCracken, director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Manitoba office. There were about 3,000 units built between 2009 to 2013, she said.
"But we haven’t seen this most recent provincial government take that up at all, so we’re just getting further behind in the creation of this affordable housing."
Manitobans and governments need to look at the real costs of providing for people’s basic needs, she said.
"This report shows that it’s a huge struggle for people, and that this prevents social mobility, and if there’s children involved, then it also can have detrimental impacts on children as well for future generations."
Winnipeg is still a much more affordable city to live in compared with skyrocketed rental costs in Vancouver, Toronto and other major centres, but the local housing market has "changed dramatically" over the past 10 years, with costs rising much faster than most people’s income levels, said Jino Distasio, a University of Winnipeg geography professor who has studied housing issues.
Winnipeg’s rental market has expanded, particularly downtown, but there are still gaps in affordable housing, including living spaces backed by non-profits and transitional shelter for people with addictions, he said.
"We do, as a nation, need to figure out better ways to create affordable housing in a range of sectors — not just rentals, but home ownership" for first-time homebuyers, seniors and non-profit-supported individuals.
Distasio said the province should be positioning itself to take advantage of federal housing subsidies and should soon release its planned provincial housing strategy.
"When we see that, maybe we’ll begin to get a sense of what the province’s vision is for addressing some of these gaps that we’re finding with respect to affordability in the housing market more broadly."
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
Updated on Thursday, July 18, 2019 at 10:58 PM CDT: Adds graphic