Editorial – High rent and low wages leave many young Canadians out in the cold

Tom Henihan

A Leger poll, conducted in early 2019, found that more than one-third of parents in Canada help their adult children with paying rent and that 36 percent of parents with children under eighteen anticipate having to provide their kids with financial assistance.

Similarly, a recent Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) report found that people in major cities earning minimum wage would need to work a lot more than forty hours to be able to afford a reasonable two-bedroom apartment.

Using a concept of “rental wages,” where a tenant pays no more than 30 percent of his or her earnings, the CPPA report determined that the hourly pay of someone with a fulltime, minimum wage job would need to be able to afford a reasonable one or two-bedroom apartment.

Economist David Macdonald who wrote the CCPA report, said that minimum wage across Canada needed to be $20 and $22 an hour to afford a one or two-bedroom apartment, with people in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver requiring more than that.

It is important to understand that the young adults receiving financial assistance from their parents are not slackers.

They are people keeping up their side of the social covenant and going to work every day, but who receive unrealistic and seriously inadequate compensation for their efforts.

All levels of government pay lip service to the issue of affordable housing, as if some long-term vision of affordable housing is going to elevate the current financial stress on young adults and by default on many of their parents.

Housing is an essential commodity and if you don’t have a place to live the chances are you don’t have a job either. It is difficult to get ready to go to work every day if you don’t have a proper place to live.

Being unable to afford an acceptable place to live often precipitates a serious decline in a person’s circumstances, due to no fault of their own.

When there is a serious disparity between rent and wages then the federal, provincial and municipal governments should address the issue as a matter of immediate importance because it is of immediate importance to those affected.

Government should intervene to ensure that either rent comes down to a more realistic or inclusive level or a minimum wage increases to ensure that anyone with a fulltime job can afford a decent place to live.

In a fair society, anyone with a fulltime job ought to be able to rent a decent apartment without spending more than one-third of his or her earnings.

This is especially important when thinking of those outside the focus of the Leger report, namely those in low-income jobs whose parents are either unwilling or unable to offer financial assistance.

The current situation of employers paying minimum wage and landlords charging maximum rent is untenable and unjust.

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