According to a report by Rentals.ca and Urbanation, the average monthly rent Canadians paid in November soared beyond $2,000 for the first time. And data from Habitat For Humanity shows that 40 per cent of homeowners say they’re worried about paying their mortgage or rent over the next year.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford made solving the housing crisis the top agenda item of his second term at Queen’s Park. Recently, Ford passed Bill 3, “the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, 2022” and Bill 39 “the Better Municipal Governance Act, 2022” as well as Bill 23, “the More Homes Built Faster Act.”
The bills are an attempt to meet the goal of building 1.5 million homes by 2031 by granting the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa more power and removing some of the red tape from the development process. The bills aren’t without their critics, with people claiming environmental preservation, municipal budgets and the principles of democracy are at risk.
Real estate racism: renting
In addition to these criticisms, Ford’s trio of bills don’t address the challenges Black Canadians face when navigating the rental and housing markets. The Habitat for Humanity survey also found that racialized Canadians were almost twice as likely to experience discrimination compared to white Canadians (18 per cent to 10 per cent).
That doesn’t surprise Jasmine Lee; she hears it regularly from tenants and other realtors. Lee is an award-winning Black realtor based in the Greater Toronto Area.
According to a report by the Ontario Real Estate Association, 93 per cent of Black agents believe discrimination plays a role in the rental process. Four out of 10 respondents said they’ve seen a rental deal fall through because of discrimination. Unsurprisingly, these incidents are most common among racialized people and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I cannot believe what I just experienced. I’m shocked to the core because this has never happened to me,” someone told Lee.
Lee says there’s no formal way to track incidents of discrimination and that lack of accountability puts real estate agents in difficult situations. Some property managers and landlords explicitly tell agents that they don’t want people from certain countries as tenants, Lee explained. Or they’ll “ghost” applicants once they’ve seen a piece of ID, even if the application is strong.
“That’s when you know something’s up,” Lee said. “They go quiet because they don't want to tell you why. Or they’ll say ‘we’re going to wait at this time’ but they don't give a reason because they don't want to get into legal issues.”
Lee says real estate agents have limited options because their role is to act as consultants and facilitate the application process.
This is particularly troubling considering that in 2018, 52% of Black Canadians lived in rented dwellings. Meanwhile, only 27% of the rest of Canadians did, according to Statistics Canada 2022 data. The report also found that Black people who rented were more likely to be living in unsuitable housing (30% to 19%) and less of them reported being satisfied with their dwelling (57% to 69%) than other renters.
Real estate racism: housing
These statistics are evidence of long-standing systemic racism in Canada, says Tiffany Callender. “What that tells me is that we have an injustice to rectify towards people of African descent in this country.”
Callender is the CEO of FACE (the Federation of African Canadian Economics), a Black-led non-profit organization that distributes resources and information to Black Canadians. FACE’s goal is to catalyze generational wealth for Canadians of African origin.
Callender says Canada has to rectify the situation because it’s largely responsible for creating the basis of the current economic landscape with historical racist policies. For example, a 1946 property deed for a community of about 100 cottage lots on Lake Huron, Ontario specified that property could only be owned by whites of a particular background and could not be “transferred by sale, inheritance, gift, or otherwise, nor rented, licensed to or occupied by any person wholly or partly of negro, Asiatic, coloured, or Semetic [sic] blood...”
Home or land ownership are two of the best investments to accumulate wealth, which then can be passed on to another generation, Callender says.
Racist policies like these have put Black Canadians at a generational disadvantage when it comes to wealth.
The 2018 Canadian Housing Survey found that only 48 per cent of Black people lived in a private dwelling owned by a member of their household compared to 73 per cent for the rest of the population.
“Our history will always tell the story of how we got where we are,” Callender said. “If at the beginning, in a country’s policies or legal frameworks there was a restriction prohibiting certain people from being able to amass wealth, you’re not starting behind the eight ball but from whatever is further behind that.”
Generational wealth gap
Callender says it’s important to use history to unpack the data presented by governments and other institutions and connect it to people’s day-to-day lives. How much wealth someone’s accumulated has a significant influence on their lives as well as the people who come after them.
According to RBC, Canadians amassed record savings and wealth during the pandemic - but the gains were less substantial for racialized Canadians. A report conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that racialized Canadians saved 29 per cent below the average when compared to white Canadians.
When you factor in the racial-wage gap – Black Canadians made on average $26.70 an hour in January 2021, $3.92 less than non-racialized Canadians – and data from Statistics Canada that shows the unemployment rate among Black Canadians (13.1%) was about 70% higher than that among non-visible minority Canadians (7.7%), these things all contribute to the widening of the wealth gap.
Callender calls these statistics “daunting” especially because many Black Canadians are starting off “from a position of inequity.”
“They give us a clear indication of what I think people from marginalized groups already knew; they were already treading and trying to keep themselves above water. And this is a tidal wave that was at risk of putting them in a very dire and very difficult situation,” she explained.
Callender calls for more disaggregated racial data to be collected so organizations like FACE can have a better understanding of the specifics in order to present potential solutions.
When it comes to building generational wealth through real estate, Lee believes one solution is combining education with conversation. Lee’s tagline is “authentically empowering families”, it’s something she says can be particularly important when someone is the first in their family to own a home.
Lee says parents who own real estate should take up equity now to help their adult children invest in the market instead of willing it to them in the future “because the market’s only going up.”
Lee encourages her clients to have honest conversations about real estate and financing with their families, even welcoming clients' young children to take part in the process. She does it so more people are able to learn about real estate credit and equity.
“So they know why it's important to buy real estate and to keep real estate for the long, long game.”