Definition of “affordable” today: Housing costing less than 30% of before-tax household income (Jak King cites CMHC)

GWAC homes image Grandview Feb 2018This is a very useful comment and definition of “affordable housing by Jak King, civic historian and blogger. The key points could be printed on a card with updated figures as a memory aid for politicians, media, city staff, election candidates, activists and so on…


“Affordable Housing”

In my discussion of the Grant Street project, I noted that the proposed rents for the units to be built will not add to the affordable stock in Grandview. I have been asked to justify that statement.

The widely recognized standard of “affordable housing” is defined as housing costing less than 30% of before-tax household income. This definition is used by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Some lending institutions use 32% of income for housing costs as the affordability threshold used to approve mortgages. My comments about affordability always use the CMHC definition.

The latest statistics I have for incomes in Vancouver shows the median annual family income to be $72,600. The average individual annual income is $38,449 (I cannot find the individual median which will be lower than the average, so I will use the average.)


– an affordable monthly rent for a median Vancouver family is 30% of $72,600 = $1,815 per month;

– an affordable monthly rent for an average Vancouver single is 30% of $38,449 = $962 per month

Two singles sharing a one bedroom apartment can barely afford $1,800 a month, while a median Vancouver family cannot afford a two-bedroom at $2,300 (which would be close to 40% of their gross income) without sacrificing food or healthcare or other essentials.

So, whenever I carp about affordability, this is what I am talking about

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