Rental Housing in Canadian Cities

Project Updates

This page provides updates on my SSHRC-funded study, Rental Housing in Canadian Cities: Barriers and Solutions to Implementation (2018-2020). The research team for this study includes:

  • Ren Thomas (Assistant Professor, School of Planning, Dalhousie University), Principal Investigator
  • Markus Moos (Associate Professor, School of Planning, University of Waterloo), Co-Investigator
  • Research assistants Ben Lemphers (MPlan), Rachel Lynn (BCD, Ryan Tram (BCD), and Samiya Dottin (BCD), students at the School of Planning, Dalhousie University

Check our our 5-minute video on Phase I of our project, and presentations I’ve given at conferences.

Innovation in rental housing: What can Halifax learn?” Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission. Halifax. January 14, 2020.

Pushing policy towards innovation: Rental housing in Canadian cities.[cancelled due to COVID-19] Urban Affairs Association annual conference. Washington, DC. April 1-4, 2020.

Learning from municipal rental housing Policies: Innovation and implementation.” Canadian Institute of Planners Annual Conference. Ottawa. July 3-6, 2019.

Innovation in Canadian rental housing: What can Halifax planners learn from other cities?” Licensed Professional Planners of Nova Scotia Annual Conference. Halifax. May 29-31, 2019.

Packed room of 64 participants at the CIP conference in Ottawa

Canadian rental housing policy: Implications for immigrants.” Metropolis Annual Conference. Halifax. March 21-23, 2019.

Canadian rental housing policy: Implications for smart growth.” Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation National Housing Conference. Ottawa. November 21-22, 2018.

Beyond the success story: Patterns in Canadian rental housing policy.” Association of American Schools of Planning. Buffalo. October 24-28, 2018.

Overcoming barriers: Learning from case studies in Canadian rental housing policy and implementation.” Association of European Schools of Planning Annual Conference. Gothenburg. July 10-14, 2018.

Media Coverage, Articles & Working Papers

Media Coverage

Nova Scotia committee hears housing crisis isn’t just a Halifax issue“, Alexander Quon, Global News. February 25, 2021.

Province told that rural NS has ‘affordable housing crisis’“, Jean Laroche, CBC, February 25, 2021.

NS ignores affordable housing lessons provided by other jurisdictions, prof says“, Francis Campbell, The Chronicle Herald, February 25, 2021.

“No extension for eviction ban puts renters at risk”. The Coast, June 26, 2020. Samiya Dottin’s article on precarious renters and what Halifax is doing–and not doing.


Thomas, R. (2020). Will only the strong survive? Municipal approaches to rental housing in CanadaCanadian Journal of Urban Research 29(2): 87-101.

Thomas, R. (2019). Rental housing approaches across Canada. Plan Canada 59(3): 16-18.

Working Papers

Will Only the Strong Survive? Municipal Approaches to Rental Housing in Canada. Our first working paper summarizes the policy analysis and survey of 101 municipal planners, developers, and non-profit housing staff.

Connecting the Dots: Catalyzing Rental Housing Policy through Policy Learning. Our second working paper summarizes the meta-analysis and policy learning workshops with local stakeholders in housing policy and implementation.

Halifax Workshops

Two workshops with 11 participants each, held at the MacEachen Institute in Halifax

As part of the final stage of this project, we held policy learning workshops at the MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance at Dalhousie University on June 12th and July 9th, 2019. Participants were Halifax planners, developers, and non-profit staff who work on affordable housing. The goals for the workshops were to explore the tools, concepts, and processes that worked in the other case study cities across Canada and determine whether they could be applied here.

What does it take for a city to be successful at rental housing? Our definition is as follows:

Successful implementation and protection of rental housing is defined as the development of new rental units (either market-rate or below-market rate) that meets or exceeds targets set by the municipality/region, and very limited or no loss of existing rental units. Successful cities meet the needs of their renter households by integrating strong policy language, enforcing policies, and collaborating with a range of stakeholders to integrate programs and funding.