Alan Harder

Key Takeaways

  • 51% of mortgage holders could not make it more than three months without their primary income without missing a payment; 16% couldn’t last even one month.
  • 62% of Canadians exceed the CMHC’s recommended 30% limit on housing expenses, with the average household spending 37% of their pre-tax income on housing.
  • Homeowners generally spend less on housing than renters (average of 34% vs. 43% of their pre-tax income). However, this is skewed by the 35% of homeowners who are mortgage-free. Mortgage holders spend an average of 41% of their income on housing.

The Hidden Struggles Behind the Housing Data

For many Canadians, the dream of homeownership is being challenged by a worrying financial reality. New data reveals a landscape where both homeowners and renters are grappling with costs that exceed the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) recommended limit of spending no more than 30% of pre-tax income on housing.

Homeowners Not as Secure as Assumed

Although homeowners have traditionally enjoyed a degree of financial security, the numbers tell a different story. Yes, 35% of homeowners are mortgage-free, which brings down the average housing expenditure for this group to 34% of pre-tax income. However, that percentage can give a misleading impression of overall financial well-being.

The Precarious Position of Mortgage Holders

When you focus on homeowners with mortgages, the picture becomes quite bleak. These individuals are devoting a whopping 41% of their pre-tax income to housing. Alarmingly, over half (51%) couldn’t manage more than three months without their main source of income; 16% would be in trouble within just a month.

Ongoing Financial Strain Amid Past Rate Increases

Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen a series of rate hikes from the Bank of Canada, which has contributed to an ongoing financial strain for many Canadians. These historical increases have only intensified concerns about housing affordability and financial stability, irrespective of what future rate changes may or may not occur. This backdrop of rising rates adds another dimension to the already challenging landscape of housing costs.

A Critical Time for Financial Health

“These statistics corroborate what we’ve been hearing anecdotally,” says Andy Hill, co-founder of “Many Canadians feel like they’re at a breaking point due to higher interest rates. Even if the Bank of Canada pauses the rate hike, these borrowers will still be dealing with rates at a 20-year high.”

The Fragile Job Market

The data is even more unsettling when considering job security. Despite a low unemployment rate, 16% of mortgage holders could not withstand a month without income before falling behind on their mortgage payments.


These figures underscore the urgency for both policymakers and individuals to address the rising costs of housing in Canada. While the statistics offer a broad view, the individual stories highlight an unsettling financial instability lurking beneath the surface.

Proportion of Pre-Tax Income on Housing

R1. Please think about how much you spend on housing each month. This would include mortgage/ rent, property tax, strata fees, and utility costs such as electricity, heat, water, and other municipal services. Approximately what percentage of your pre-tax income do you spend on housing?


  • These results are based on an online survey of a representative sample of 1,548 adult Canadians (including 1,028 homeowners and 650 mortgage holders) surveyed using Leger’s panel, LEO, from October 13-16, 2023. 
  • As a non-random internet survey, a margin of error is not reported. For comparison, a probability sample of n=1,548 would have a margin of error of ±2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
  • Any discrepancies between totals are due to rounding.

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