COVID-19 and Canada’s renters

Abacus Data Bulletins are short analyses of public opinion data we collect. For more information or media interviews, contact David Coletto.

Earlier today, we released data from a comprehensive survey looking at how the COVID-19 epidemic has impacted Canadians’ state of mind.

Over the next few days, we will also dig deeper to explore how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting specific groups of Canadians.

Given that we are close to the end of the month, and for many Canadians rent payments are coming due, exploring the views and perceptions of Canada’s renters seemed timely.

According to the 2016 census and Statistics Canada, 32% of Canadian households rent. 36% of our sample of Canadians 18+ rent their home so the numbers are in line and consistent.

Here’s a snapshot of what we found:

4 in 10 Canadian renters are worried about being able to pay their rent. 26% are really worried that they will be unable to pay their rent. Another 14% say they are somewhat worried. That means 4.3 million Canadians are worried about their ability to pay their rent.

Who are the anxious renters? 

  • They represent about 14% of the population.
  • They are younger (63% are under the age of 45).
  • They are more likely to be female (55%) than male (45%).
  • 1 in 3 are parents of children in early childhood, elementary, or secondary school.
  • They are from lower-income households. 62% live in households that make less than $50,000 a year.
  • They don’t have much savings to fall back on. 66% say they have less than $1000 in savings that they can easily access.
  • Among those who work, they typically work 37.2 hours a week but in the current week, the average expected hours of work drops to 16.7 (down more than 55%).
  • While more are employed in a permanent full-time position, 27% are either self-employed, freelance, working part-time, or on a contract. 14% report being unemployed currently. 7% are retired and 7% are stay-at-home parents.
  • 43% pay more than $1,000 a month in rent. 48% pay between $500 and $1,000 while 8% pay less than $500 a month.
  • They are much more concerned about the COVID-19 epidemic than other Canadians. 62% are either extremely worried or worried a lot compared to 36% of other Canadians.
  • 64% are really worried about not being able to pay their bills over the next month.


The data is quite clear: millions of Canadian renters are feeling anxious about their ability to pay their rent because of the COVID-19 epidemic. Among those employed, they report usually working on average 37.5 hours a week. But this week, the average dropped 55% to 16.7 hours.


Our survey was conducted online with 2,309 Canadians aged 18 and over from March 20 to 24, 2020. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.1%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.


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