Ontario rental prices leave minimum wage workers lagging in affordability

A new report outlining the cost of renting in cities across Canada is painting a bleak outlook for those who want to spend less than 30 per cent of their gross income on housing.

Released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the report calculated a “rental wage,” which is the hourly wage required to rent an apartment and still fall within the affordable living calculated by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) as less than 30 per cent of before-tax household income.

“The rental wage is considerably higher than minimum wage in every single province. Even in the three provinces with the highest minimum wage in Canada—B.C., Ontario, and Alberta—there’s a shortfall in what minimum-wage workers earn and the rent they have to pay, on average,” the report reads.

The estimated rental wage would allow tenants to spend no more than 30 per cent of their pre-tax earnings on rent, and it assumes tenants work a standard 40-hour week for all 52 weeks of the year.

The report shows Ontario’s $15.50 minimum wage falls well below the actual wage of $27.54 needed to rent a one-bedroom apartment and the calculated $33.19 wage needed to rent a two-bedroom apartment.

Here are the actual wages needed to afford a one or two-bedroom affordable apartment in different cities:


To fall within the affordable living determined by CMCH, a worker would need to make $23.94 per hour, or $8.44 per hour above minimum wage, to afford the apartment.

When looking at a two-bedroom apartment, an hourly income of $28.25 is needed, which is $12.75 above minimum wage.


Those living in the Royal City will be required to make well above minimum wage if they want to have an affordable place to live.

According to the report, workers need to make $25.77 per hour to afford a one-bedroom apartment. This means workers need to make $10.27 above minimum wage each hour for affordable living.

When looking at a two-bedroom apartment, the hourly wage jumps to $28.83 required to have affordable living in Guelph. This comes out to $13.33 above the hourly minimum provincial minimum wage.


Coming in on the lower end of Ontario cities, the hourly wage needed to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Brantford is $22.40. Which comes out to $7.10 more per hour than workers make on minimum wage.

For a two-bedroom rental, the hourly wage jumps to $24.21, or $8.71 above the minimum wage.


Coming in as the most affordable city in southern Ontario, Windsor’s affordable living wage for a one-bedroom apartment is $19.46, or $3.94 above minimum wage.

The wage needed to afford a two-bedroom unit is calculated at $22.96 per hour or $7.46 per hour.


Just down the 401, workers in London need to make $21.90 for an affordable one-bedroom apartment in the Forest City. This equals $6.40 above minimum wage.

Meanwhile, for a two-bedroom apartment, the wage needed to live affordably is $26.79 – which is $11.29 above minimum wage.


“The discrepancy between the rental and minimum wage is such that, in most Canadian cities, minimum-wage earners are extremely unlikely to escape core housing need. They are likely spending too much on rent, living in units that are too small, or, in many cases, both,” the report states.

In all but three cities in the country, which are all located in Quebec, the report shows one-bedroom rental wage is higher than the minimum wage.

“In Vancouver and Toronto, even two full-time minimum-wage workers cannot afford a one-bedroom unit without spending more than 30 per cent of their combined income on housing,” the report reads.

In Toronto, a worker needs to make $33.62 per hour if they want an affordable one-bedroom unit, and $40.03 per hour for an affordable two-bedroom unit.


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