Rights & Money

Minimum-Wage Earners Can’t Afford Rent

In most Canadian cities, working a 40-hour week won’t get you an apartment if you’re earning minimum wage


By Jennifer Hughes

Photo: iStock/Panupat Ratanawechtrakul.


A two-bedroom apartment is beyond the means of a minimum-wage earner in more than 90 percent of Canadian neighbourhoods, according to a recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), an Ottawa research institute.

The report is based on a CCPA study that analyzed data on rental information from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and on wages from Statistics Canada; all data was for October 2018 and related to 795 neighbourhoods across the country. The study discovered that full-time minimum-wage workers could afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment in only 24 neighbourhoods; if prospective renters limited their choices to a one-bedroom apartment, the number rose to 70 neighbourhoods—fewer than 10% of those analyzed.

The CCPA found that, on average across Canada, someone working 40 hours a week would have to earn at least $22.40 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment—$20.20 an hour for a one-bedroom apartment. Currently, the highest minimum wage in the country is $15—in Alberta.

In only three cities—all in Quebec—could a full-time minimum-wage earner rent a one-bedroom apartment and have money left to live on: Sherbrooke, Saguenay, and Trois-Rivières. In Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Ottawa, and Calgary, he or she would have to work a minimum of 70 hours a week just to pay the rent.

The study showed that 10 cities—London, Windsor, Kingston, St. Catharines, and Sudbury, ON; Moncton and Saint John, NB; and Montreal, Gatineau, and Quebec City—have some neighbourhoods in which minimum wage will get you a one-bedroom apartment, but even in those cities, most neighbourhoods were unaffordable for those with lower incomes.