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Why renters report a lower quality of life than homeowners, according to experts

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For people living in rental housing, it’s not a secret: it can be stressful.

A new study from Statistics Canada says renters report a lower quality of life compared to people who own their homes. Canadians who rent reported feeling financial strain, and advocates say that’s no surprise.

One tenants’ advocate describes it as "constant uncertainty" that can have a ripple effect on one’s life.

“Having a lack of stability in general can be extremely stressful if you don’t know that you’re going to be living in the same place from year to year,” said Megan Kee, an organizer with the Toronto group No Demovictions – a tenants’ group that advocates for people facing evictions due to demolition.

“I thought that I was safe,” she explained, adding she had lived in her apartment building for seven years, thinking she had avoided rent hikes arriving elsewhere in the city.

“Rent started going up. But now, even my building is being demolished to build condos,” she added.

New data shows renters were 15 percentage points more likely to report difficulty meeting financial needs and over 11 points less likely to report high overall life satisfaction when compared to homeowners.

Some of the information was compiled between 2021 and 2022, when rent and mortgage rates were even lower than they are today.

Tenants were also less likely to report a strong sense of belonging to their community and more likely to report feelings of loneliness.

“It’s likely they’re less invested in the community because they don’t know how long they’re going to stay there,” said Douglas Kwan, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario.

“They have nowhere to go if their rent becomes unaffordable and they’re stuck in a situation where it may be affordable to them, but the circumstances in which they live are not ideal,” said Kwan.

“If you need a house, you need a house right away,” said Banff, Alta., resident Catia Antunes, who was on an apartment waiting list for two years before finding her current home -- just in time for a new baby.

Banff has a shortage of roughly 1,000 units.

“Renting a place used to be so easy, and it was fun as well to go and look at houses. Now it’s just very damn scary,” said Antunes.

On the day the study was released, Housing Minister Sean Fraser was in Banff to announce agreements with six rural Albertan communities to fast-track 400 homes over the next four years. 

“There’s a level of uncertainty facing renters that are not the same as homeowners, where they have more control over their finances, over the state and condition of their home,” said Kwan.

The report also says Canadians are spending more of their income on rent.

“Shelter costs are the biggest share of almost every household budget, and Canadians have been spending a larger share of their income on these costs.”

Tenants also scored lower on quality of life scores in Toronto and Vancouver, compared with residents in other parts of their provinces.

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