Since January 2022, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance has been studying inflation in the current Canadian economy. Over a series of meetings, they have heard from expert witnesses including policy analysts, human rights advocates, economists, and other stakeholders from across the housing and homelessness sector.
With Canada being one of the world’s wealthiest nations, it is counterintuitive for our economy to have growing rates of homelessness and housing unaffordability. This contradiction is caused by the “financialization” of housing.
On March 21, 2022, Global Director of The Shift, Leilani Farha, defined the financialization of housing and its role in Canada’s rising housing costs before the federal Standing Committee on Finance. She drew from her experience as the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing to offer insight on how a rights-based framework as articulated in the National Housing Strategy Act can ensure adequate, affordable, and secure housing for all.
“By the financialization of housing, I mean when single and multi-family homes are treated like an extractive industry like mining. Where housing is used to extract wealth, mostly by those who already have an abundance of it,” says Farha.
Of course, when housing policies and practices function to benefit profit-seeking investors rather than people who need housing most, they reinforce housing as a commodity—and worsen the housing crisis.
On January 24, 2022, the National Right to Housing Network’s Project Manager, Sahar Raza, appeared before the federal Standing Committee on Finance to discuss how we can curb financialization and rising housing prices through human rights-based policy and regulation. She drew from research, community engagements, and international and domestic human rights law to offer practical solutions to Canada’s housing crisis—solutions that could be immediately implemented to improve housing affordability and adequacy for all.
“We’re actually using government funds to drive the housing crisis instead of addressing the housing crisis… [but] this could easily be reformed,” says Raza.