White Papers ─── April 06, 2022

Residential Development for New Immigrant Populations in Canada

Author: Anastacia Tunyk

The Importance of a Good Start 

The main goal of inviting new immigrants is to support further economic development. Though preference is given to immigration candidates who have education or in-demand skills, it is worth noting that all immigrants contribute to economic growth both as workers and consumers. Adequate housing is more than a fundamental human need for a new immigrant, it also affects the settlement process and an individual’s ability to reach his or her potential and contribute to the economy through taxes and consumption of goods and services.

Current Approach to Providing Housing to New Immigrants 

Presently, the strategies and policies for housing for new immigrants are focused on educating newcomers about the existing housing market and the provision of financial assistance if needed. The housing supply and designs do not consider the needs of immigrants, rather they are encouraged to find suitable accommodations from existing housing typologies.

The End User Classifications 

Immigrants arrive in Canada under three main immigration categories: 

  • Family Class
  • Economic Class
  • Protected Persons Refugee Class.

Each category has different housing needs and available resources. The common ground for all three classes is the urgency of finding living accommodations upon arrival.

Family Class Housing Needs 

Family class immigrants, consisting of spouses, children, and parents sponsored by their family members in Canada, usually have access to housing right away. Their housing needs in the first year are adequate space that allows for supporting new family members and sharing resources such as private transportation. From a design perspective, single-family homes with a larger number of bedrooms, additional kitchens, and garden suites would be most beneficial for this category of residents.

Economic Class Housing Needs 

Economic class immigrants are required to bring a set minimum amount of money for each family member to ensure their ability to sustain themselves during the first six months upon arrival. They are more likely to look for independent housing and will rely on the existing rental market in the first year of settlement. Considering the immigration requirements under this category (main applicants can only bring their children and cannot include their parents or siblings in the application), the households will not be multi-generational and will have post-secondary education. The lifestyle will include attending professional development and training activities, networking, and job searches. There is a greater possibility that this segment of immigrants will need to rely on public transit in the first year and on child care services. Additionally, these households are more likely to invite their parents and grandparents for extended visits and share accommodation during their stay.

Protected Persons Refugee Class 

Housing Needs Newcomers in this class fall under the following categories: government-assisted refugees, privately sponsored refugees, protected persons in Canada, and dependents abroad. The most common housing needs for this category are affordability (fixed housing allowance is provided by government or sponsor) and easy access to healthcare providers and mental health support providers. Since many newcomers are clients of public and private immigrant support services, it would be beneficial if housing is designed and built in partnership with settlement organizations that would run the operations when they are occupied. Space suitable for multi-generational households is best because all family members can potentially immigrate together under this class.

Statistical Data on Immigrant Housing 

The statistical data on recent immigrant housing for 2016 indicates that the majority of recent immigrants resided in attached dwellings, this refers to semi-detached houses (e.g., duplexes, triplexes, or four-plexes), row houses, apartments or flats within a duplex, and apartments in buildings with fewer than five storeys. The trend is consistent in all provinces, except Ontario where the number of immigrants in high rise apartment buildings and other attached dwellings is the same.

Source: https://lipdata.ca/indicator/housing-structure-type/

Source: https://lipdata.ca/indicator/housing-structure-type/

Source: https://lipdata.ca/indicator/housing-structure-type/


The main factors that drive recent immigrants’ choices for their first homes are immediate availability and the inclusive policies of property owners. The next factors of importance are adequate size (number or size of bedrooms), affordability, and accessibility of important amenities without a car. Finally, for successful settlement, the dwelling needs to provide access to the community which is based not only on an immigrant’s ethnicity, but also on his or her education and professional background. Partnerships between architectural service providers, developers, and settlement services would be beneficial for further research and creation of optimal housing types for the newcomer population.


2016 Dashboard Data: Statistics Canada. 2016. Census of Population. Custom tabulations.
Statistics Canada. 2017 (updated). Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016. Website.
The Housing Needs of Immigrants and Refugees in Canada - A Background Paper for the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association by Sarah V. Wayland, PhD, Wayland
Consulting https://www.homelesshub.ca/sites/default/files/FinalReport_CHRAImmigrationHousing_June_2007.pdf

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