Canada’s decorated armed forces can no longer afford housing, forcing personnel to leave the military altogether.
According to a June 14 memo leaked to The National Post, members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) who stay put “have a significant financial advantage” and can more easily afford accommodations compared to those who move more frequently.
Amid a nationwide housing crisis, CAF members who move more often are exposed “to higher prices and rates more often,” leaving them especially vulnerable.
“Increasingly, members will release [from the Canadian Forces] rather than relocate to an area they cannot afford or take a loss on an existing home,” said Brig.-Gen. Virginia Tattersall.
“Average cost to purchase or rent housing now exceeds incomes of several CAF working rank levels,” she added, becoming a top complaint within the force as frustrations continue to mount.
In addition, Chief of the Defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre said morale continues to plummet over the ongoing cost of living crisis, as some members have resorted to asking for donations to make ends meet.
Donations to Together We Stand, a non-profit that supports military families, are expected to double this year.
Recent changes to the military's housing allowance have amplified housing needs by focusing on a soldier’s salary rather than where they are posted.
As of August, an estimated 7,700 soldiers are now ineligible for the program, while thousands more observed a reduction in their monthly stipends — saving the federal government approximately $30 million annually.
"Of special note are those members who made financial commitments in 2022 at the height of the housing market, or after receiving posting instructions in early 2023: some are now facing significant challenges to meet their financial obligations or to find appropriate housing," said Eyre.
According to the Canadian Forces Housing Agency (CFHA), 28,000 CAF members occupy nearly 12,000 housing units. Almost 4,500 members are on a waitlist for housing.
The CFHA manages the housing portfolio at 27 locations nationwide, including single, semi-detached and row houses, as well as barrier-free accessible houses and apartments.
They identified an urgent need for at least 5,000 more housing units to meet demand across all branches of the military.
The agency has plans to build new accommodations, starting in Edmonton, but specific details remained under wraps as of writing.
However, a media report by The Canadian Press uncovered the CFHA had failed to properly maintain its 12,000 housing units. One in five received a “below average” rating.
A spokesperson for the Defence Department said significant change within the CAF in recent years has caused “some angst,” which they did not find “surprising.”
When asked why soldiers are relying on donations, the DND said many members already received raises this year to counter the cost of living crisis.
"The government of Canada recognizes and appreciates the outstanding contributions made by the Canadian Armed Forces and their families, and is committed to fairly compensating CAF members for their service," read the written statement.
“We recognize the challenges faced by CAF members and their dependents, and are doing everything we can to help, as demand for DND residential housing rises as a result,” noted a National Defence review.
“DND also plans to construct additional housing units at several Bases/Wings over the next several years, in response to the growing operational requirement for military housing,” it added.