The number of Canadians in need of affordable housing is far greater than what was initially estimated by a federal crown corporation, according to a new report from the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate (OFHA).

About 1.4 million households don’t have access to quality housing, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has claimed in the past. 

However, the OFHA published a report on Thursday called,  “A human rights-based calculation of Canada’s housing supply shortage” that estimates Canada is short about 4.4 million affordable houses from meeting the current demand and not 1.4 million as CMHC claims.

Housing policy expert Carolyn Whizman produced the report, which projects a deficit of three million homes for low-income households that require monthly payments of $1,050 or less. 

An additional 1.4 million homes are missing for median-income households that are currently in need of housing. 

According to the report, the difference in estimates stems from the fact that the CMHC’S method only takes into account housing demand rather than housing need.

“It conflates demand for home ownership, which may be for speculative or investment purposes, with housing need. And perhaps most tellingly, it ignores the intent of both the National Housing Strategy and the National Housing Strategy Act, which is to focus on the housing needs of those who are most marginalized,” reads the report.

The OFHA report includes the homeless, students, people living in long-term care residents, those with disabilities and people who are living in shared housing. 

The CMHC estimates that by 2030, an additional 3.45 million homes will need to be constructed, over and above the base level of 2.2 million homes. 

The OFHA report suggests that over the next decade, an additional 9.6 million homes will have to be built, with a third of that cohort dedicated to Canadians with very low to moderate incomes.

“Canada needs a long-term plan to bridge the gap in its affordable housing supply. It must include significant, sustained government investment in non-market housing – such as cooperative, non-profit, and public housing. The ultimate goal is a sustainable housing system. The key ingredient to get there is a human rights approach that puts people first, and programs that respond to their needs,” said head of the OFHA Marie-Josée Houle in a statement.

The CMHC looks predominantly at middle-class home ownership while the OFHA report accounts for other groups as well like renters and students in particular.

“Students actually exist, homeless people actually exist, people in shared housing actually exist, but they’re not counted in housing need,” she told Global News.

“So, what the federal housing advocate asked me to do, because it’s a human rights-based report, is to start counting those people, to start looking at what they can afford and to start looking at what some of the targets might be if you started including those people who previously haven’t been counted.”