The "Housing Economy" and Housing Insecurity in Canada

  • Author / Creator
    Loptson, Kristjana, AB
  • This dissertation situates Canada’s housing system, and the policy framework that shapes it, within a broad political economy context in order to understand the evolving nature of housing in the country. The study is motivated by a concern about the social implications of rampant housing insecurity, which occurs when households cannot access, or have only insecure access to adequate housing. Housing insecurity manifests in a range of ways and is reflected in the high number of people presently experiencing or at risk of homelessness; in the low rental vacancy rates in many cities; in the number of evictions occurring due to rent arrears; in long social housing waiting lists; and in shelter costs that are, across the country, unmanageably high for many households. I contend that identifying and understanding the barriers preventing effective policy responses to housing insecurity requires a careful analysis of Canada's complex housing system, including appreciating how profoundly important housing assets have become to Canada’s economy. Homeownership has come to serve as a crucial financial instrument, and this political economic reality has transformed the meaning of housing tenure and seriously constrained housing policy options. A core contention of this dissertation is that as Canada's housing system has evolved, the Canadian economy has increasingly developed into a “housing economy”— a term I use to describe a paradigm of economic growth characterized by a highly financialized housing system in which a substantial proportion of the country’s wealth and debt are generated and stored. Key features of Canada’s housing economy include a growing rate of homeownership, an expansion of credit collateralized by housing assets, debt-fuelled consumer spending that is tied to home values, low interest rates, housing speculation, and increasing mortgage securitization. The deep integration of housing and the financial sector have transformed how Canada’s housing system is governed today; housing policy has become deeply integrated with, and made increasingly subservient to, macroeconomic objectives. As Canada’s housing economy has developed, so has an extensive network of people with deeply entrenched interests in maintaining high residential property values, and this makes Canada’s housing policy framework and, thus, housing insecurity, politically intractable. I demonstrate that the increased significance of residential real estate to the Canadian economy has greatly limited the types of housing policies that are viewed to be economically desirable and politically implementable, and conclude that this has weakened the willingness and capacity of elected officials to effectively address housing insecurity. Until Canadian governments — particularly the national government — acts to delink housing from the financial system, housing policies aimed at reducing housing insecurity will not be effective. 

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Political Science
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Patten, Steve (Political Science)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Hulchanski, J. David (Social Work)
    • Garber, Judy (Political Science)
    • Kahane, David (Political Science)
    • Patten, Steve (Political Science)
    • Collins, Damian (Geography)