Housing in Canada Online

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

General

The Variables

The Data

The Web Data Server

General

The Variables

The Data

The Web Data Server

General

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What is Housing in Canada Online?

The Housing in Canada Online (HiCO) electronic database profiles the housing conditions of households in your area by Aboriginal status, household type, tenure and age group, indicating whether or not dwellings meet CMHC's housing standards. For households living in dwellings below standards, HiCO identifies whether they are in core housing need. HiCO includes information extracted from the 2011 National Household Survey as well as the 2006, 2001, 1996 and 1991 Censuses. It features data for Canada, and the provinces and territories, as well as Census Divisions, Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) and Census Agglomerations (CAs).

Are you a new HiCO user? Click here for information on how to get started using HiCO.

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The Variables

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How do HiCO's variables compare with the variables Statistics Canada uses?

Many of HiCO's variables are similar to, if not the same as, variables Statistics Canada publishes. HiCO's Aboriginal Household, Age of the primary household maintainer, Geography, Household Income, Household type, Shelter Cost, Shelter-Cost-to-Income Ratio (STIR) and Tenure concepts are directly comparable to those that Statistics Canada uses for the Census and National Household Survey. While not directly comparable to Statistics Canada's variables, HiCO's Housing standards and Core housing need variables apply many standard concepts in their estimation. Using standard variables and concepts ensures that the data included in HiCO can be used in conjunction with the wider volume of data available from Statistics Canada.

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How are Canada's housing conditions assessed in HiCO?

Housing in Canada Online uses a composite measure of acceptable housing that integrates indicators of housing adequacy, suitability and affordability into a single measure of housing conditions.

Acceptable housing is in adequate condition, of suitable size and affordable.

  • Adequate dwellings are those reported by their residents as not requiring any major repairs.
  • Suitable dwellings have enough bedrooms for the size and make-up of resident households, according to National Occupancy Standard (NOS) requirements.
  • Affordable dwellings cost less than 30% of before-tax household income.

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What is the National Occupancy Standard?

The National Occupancy Standard (NOS) is comprised of the common elements of provincial/territorial occupancy standards. The NOS determines the number of bedrooms a household requires given its size and composition. Click here for a complete definition.

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How are CMHC's housing standards applied to households?

Using information collected by the Census and National Household Survey, households are examined to determine if their dwellings are in adequate condition (needing only regular maintenance or minor repairs), are suitable in size (meet National Occupancy Standard (NOS) requirements), and are affordable (shelter costs are less than 30% of household income).

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What is core housing need?

Core housing need integrates standards for dwelling adequacy, suitability and affordability into a single measure of the housing conditions of Canadian households. If a household falls below one or more of these three standards and it would have to spend 30% or more of its total before-tax income to pay the median rent of alternative local housing that is acceptable (meets all three standards), it is classified as being in core housing need.

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What are the origins of core housing need?

In 1985 a major policy change established core housing need as the underlying foundation of federal social housing policy and programs. Henceforth, all federal subsidies for new social housing would be targeted to households in core housing need. Following the agreement, the federal government, provinces and territories established a working group to determine how to improve the measurement of core housing need. Beginning with the 1991 Census, and continuing with the 1996, 2001, and 2006 Censuses and the 2011 National Household Survey, core housing need has been regularly measured and reported. Resulting estimates of the number, tenure and types of households in need by location have been used to help guide housing policy development and design as well as to determine program budget allocations nationally.

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Is core housing need a poverty measure?

No. Core housing need assesses the acceptability of the housing conditions of Canadian households, and not their incomes. For example, some households may live in acceptable housing even though they have incomes below Statistics Canada's Low-Income Cut-Offs (LICOs). Other households may live in housing below standards and be in core housing need even though they have incomes above LICOs.

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What is core housing need used for?

CMHC employs the concepts of acceptable housing and core housing need to assess and monitor housing conditions. In doing so, CMHC informs the decision-making of housing stakeholders at all levels of government and in the private sector (e.g. non-profit organizations and industry). More recently, the Homelessness Partnering Secretariat of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) has been providing Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's core housing need and other housing market data to assist communities in developing their plans for homelessness initiatives.

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Who uses core housing need?

Housing stakeholders (federal, provincial and municipal housing agencies, those in the housing industry and in non-profit agencies, as well as academic researchers) employ core housing need to guide research, policy and programme development, planning and programme implementation. Core housing need may be explored in socio-economic studies to help understand, for example, the educational and health outcomes of household members.

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How is core housing need reported?

Core housing need is typically reported as the incidence (or, proportion) of households in core housing need out of all those households whose housing conditions can be examined. For example, in Canada, in 2011, out of a total of 12,462,435 households whose housing conditions were examined, 12.5%, or 1,552,145 households, were in core housing need.

Using the percent-based incidence provides for a more meaningful comparison between two geographic areas, or household groups. Comparing the numbers of households in core housing need is not always meaningful. For example, comparing the count of 1.6 million households in core need nationally to the 137,485 households in need in the province of Alberta does not tell you anything about the relative levels of need in Canada and Alberta. However, if the 137,485 Alberta households in need are expressed as 10.7% of households in Alberta, it becomes clear that this province had lower levels of core housing need when compared to 12.5% for the whole of Canada in 2011.

Numerous examples of CMHC's interpretation of these data are provided in the Census Housing Series of Socio-Economic Research Highights and in the Canadian Housing Observer. Please feel free to download copies of these publications from CMHC's website.

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Why are households distinguished by their Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal status in HiCO?

Identifying Aboriginal housing conditions, benchmarked by core housing need, allows for their comparison to non-Aboriginal housing conditions and the measurement of any gap between them. Core housing need can then be used to track housing conditions to see if progress is being made in addressing gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal households. Distinguishing Aboriginal from non-Aboriginal households in this manner enables government and non-government housing stakeholders to identify where Aboriginal housing conditions require specific attention by the nature of the attention needed so that they may more ably direct resources and assistance to address housing problems.

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The Data

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What households are included in HiCO Data?

HiCO examines only those households for which data are available to assess housing adequacy, suitability and affordability - the three standards underlying core housing need. Please review our HiCO Reference Counts for more information.

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Why can't I find my community in the table?

Your community may not have been listed individually for several reasons. It could have been included as part of a Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) or Census Agglomeration (CA). The HiCO Definitions page lists the geographic areas included in HiCO, and defines CMAs, CAs and Census Divisions.

If you would like to obtain housing conditions data for your community, please contact us to see what CMHC can do to help.

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Where do the data come from?

CMHC uses Census National Household Survey (NHS) data to create HiCO. Statistics Canada applies CMHC's housing standards to the Census and NHS databases and provides CMHC with custom data. Please review the data source information regarding the terms of use of CMHC's custom Statistics Canada data.

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Can users compare data from the 2011 NHS to the Census?

Statistics Canada recommends caution when comparing data from the NHS to the Census. While the 2011 data fairly represents the characteristics of those that responded to the survey, there is no way to tell the degree to which a change in housing conditions reflects an actual change in housing conditions and not a change in the nature of respondents to the NHS, compared to the Census.

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Has CMHC ever revised its housing need estimates?

In 2005, prior to HiCO's release, CMHC revised both its 1996 and 2001 Census-based core housing need estimates to ensure the income test was correctly applied to all households. Later in 2005, CMHC made an additional revision to estimates of housing need in the Nunavik region of Quebec, based on revised information on housing costs and core need income thresholds in this non-market area. Since these revisions, CMHC undertook additional effort to anticipate and prevent the occurrence of errors, and has not issued any more revisions.

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Why do all the household counts end in 5 or 0, while incomes, shelter costs and shelter-cost-to-income ratios (STIRs) do not?

All household counts end in either a 5 or 0 as a result of random rounding of the census data by Statistics Canada. Random rounding helps to ensure confidentiality. In contrast average incomes, shelter costs and STIRs are not rounded; instead, they are subjected to a different procedure to ensure confidentiality. For more information on how Statistics Canada protects the confidentiality of responses, please consult their National Household Survey User Guide.

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Why, when I add the sub-components of a variable together, does the sum not always equal the totals provided for the variable?

Statistics Canada protects confidentiality by randomly rounding all household counts. It is likely that the sum of the individually rounded sub-components will not equal the rounded total for the variable.

NOTE: It is generally advisable to use subtotals and totals when they are available instead of summing across randomly rounded components.

For more information on how Statistics Canada protects the confidentiality of responses, please consult their National Household Survey User Guide.

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Why, if I have a household count, do I sometimes obtain zero-values for the average household income, shelter cost and shelter-cost-to-income ratio (STIR)?

To ensure confidentiality, Statistics Canada suppresses the average household income, shelter cost and shelter-cost-to-income ratio (STIR) if the household count is too small. For more information on how Statistics Canada protects confidentiality of responses, please consult their National Household Survey User Guide.

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Why are data on Aboriginal households not available for 1991?

HiCO data, for 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011, define Aboriginal households using the Aboriginal identity of household members. By contrast, in 1991, Aboriginal households could only be defined using the ethnic origins of household members. Since ethnic origins and Aboriginal identity are very different concepts that produce very different estimates for households, HiCO provides only 1996, 2001 and 2006 Census data and 2011 National Household Survey data, in order to ensure the comparability of household estimates.

For more information on Aboriginal identity and ethnic origins, please consult Statistics Canada's National Household Survey Dictionary.

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The Web Data Server

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What is the Web Data Server?

The Web Data Server (WDS) is an online programme created by Beyond 20/20 Inc. that allows you to manipulate HiCO and create a customized data table to meet your analytical requirements. Are you a new HiCO user? Click here for information on how to get started using HiCO.

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Is the Web Data Server (WDS) similar to the Beyond 20/20 Browser?

Yes, the Web Data Server is the online equivalent of Beyond 20/20 Inc.'s desktop computer browser programme. Are you a new HiCO user? Click here for information on how to get started using HiCO.

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How does the Web Data Server (WDS) work?

Using the WDS, you can customize your data table by clicking on the spotted area and dragging the variable to be a column or row heading, or to be a control variable in the "Other" category. Are you a new HiCO user? Click here for information on how to get started using HiCO. Help files are also available online. Instructions and tutorials on how to manipulate the table are included in these Help files. To become acquainted with the use of the WDS, please read the Help files and view the tutorials before using HiCO.

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What is the difference between 'Dimensions' and 'Variables'?

These two terms are interchangeable. Beyond 20/20 Inc. uses 'dimensions' as a technical term to denote 'variables'.

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Can I download HiCO data to use with my own computer instead of using the online Web Data Server (WDS)?

It is possible to download the table in two ways. First, you can download only the data that concerns your research by creating the table in the browser, than saving the custom table as an excel file, or in Beyond 20/20's .ivt format. The second method involves downloading the whole table. This can be done using the link on the right-hand menu bar at the top of this page. Please consult the Help Files in the WDS for instructions on how to download customized tables to your computer.

Note: Version 7.0 or better of the desktop Browser programme is required to use data downloaded from HiCO in Beyond 20/20's .ivt format. This programme must be acquired by the user from Beyond 20/20.

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What is the "Other" Category on the Web Data Server (WDS)?

The "Other" category acts as a storage device for variables not currently in use as row or column headings in your table. Placing a variable in the Other Category does not delete it. Instead, when the variable is placed in the "Other" category, that variable becomes a control variable. To take an example, by changing the item showing on the Tenure variable from Total to just Owners, the universe of the table changes from all households to show data only on owners. To show all households again, simply change the tenure variable back to the total.

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How do I place a variable in the "other" category without putting another in the table by mistake?

To place a variable in the other category, nest it there so as not to replace any other variable. Please review the HiCO Beginner's Guide manual on our Getting Started with HiCO page to learn more about key HiCO functions, such as nesting.

For further information, please consult the WDS help files.

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