Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11Footnote 1 aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The world is becoming increasingly urbanized. Since 2007, more than half of the world’s population has been living in cities, and that share is projected to rise to 60% by 2030. Cities and metropolitan areas are powerhouses of economic growth—contributing about 60% of global GDP. However, they also account for about 70% of global carbon emissions and over 60% of resource use.

Canadian ambition under Sustainable cities and communities

Canada’s ambition for this goal is to ensure Canadians have access to quality housing, and live in healthy, accessible, and sustainable cities and communities.

Canada’s targets are that:

Canadian Indicator Framework

In collaboration with federal departments and agencies, Statistics Canada has developed the Canadian Indicator Framework (CIF) for the Sustainable Development Goals. The CIF includes 76 indicators specific to Canada, which measure progress using a set of nationally relevant, objective and comprehensive indicators. CIF indicators for SDG 11 are:

  • Growth rate of people experiencing chronic homelessness
  • Proportion of households in core housing need
  • Percentage of the population living in areas where air pollutant concentrations are less than or equal to the 2020 Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards
  • Percentage of the population living within 500 meters of a public transport stop
  • Percentage of the population using shared or active transportation for commuting
  • Total waste disposal per capita
  • Percentage of the population aged 12 and over who reported their sense of belonging to their local community as being very strong or somewhat strong

What we are doing to build sustainable cities and communities in Canada

The National Housing Strategy

The National Housing Strategy (NHS) is 10-year, $72+ billion plan. The vision of the NHS is that all Canadians have housing that meets their needs and they can afford. Affordable housing is a cornerstone of sustainable, inclusive communities and a Canadian economy where we can prosper and thrive.

The NHS addresses a range of needs across the housing continuum, from shelters and transitional housing, to community housing, to affordable rental housing and homeownership. It sets ambitious targets to reduce chronic homelessness by 50%, reduce housing needs for 530,000 households, create 160,000 new housing units, repair and renew 300,000 housing units, protect 385,000 community housing units and expand their number by 55,000 units – all by 2027 to 28.

The NHS focuses on priority populations including:

  • women and children fleeing domestic violence
  • seniors
  • Indigenous peoples
  • those experiencing homelessness
  • people with disabilities
  • those dealing with mental health and addiction issues
  • veterans
  • LGBTQ+ community
  • young adults
  • racialized groups including Black Canadians
  • recent immigrants
  • refugees

As stated in the National Housing Strategy Act (NHS Act), the NHS contributes to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. At the core of both the NHS and the NHS Act is the Government of Canada’s commitment to progressively realize the right of every Canadian to adequate, safe and affordable housing. To support this, the NHS Act requires that the government establish a National Housing Council and a Federal Housing Advocate. The Council is an advisory body that promotes participation and inclusion in the development of housing policy in Canada and advises the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion on ways to improve the NHS. The Advocate’s role is to investigate systemic housing issues facing people and populations who are vulnerable and to prepare an annual report to the Government on findings and recommendations. Members of the Council were appointed in November 2020, and the Advocate was appointed by Minister Hussen on February 3, 2022.

The NHS includes the following initiatives and investments:

  • the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund encourages new funding models and innovative building techniques in the affordable housing
  • the National Housing Co-Investment Fund supports the construction and revitalization of mixed-income, mixed-tenure, mixed-use affordable housing Funded projects need support from another level of government to optimize investments
  • the Federal Lands Initiative supports the transfer of surplus federal lands and buildings to eligible proponents at low or no cost
  • the Federal Community Housing Initiative supports federally administered community housing projects reaching the end of operating agreements from past social and affordable housing programs
  • the Federal/Provincial/Territorial (FPT) Housing Partnership Framework is an agreement endorsed by the Government of Canada and all provinces and territories (PTs), except Quebec, which establishes a shared FPT vision for housing. The Government of Canada has bilateral agreements with all provinces and territories (PTs) to deliver more than $15 billion in joint funding over 10 years through the following initiatives:
    • the Canada Housing Benefit, which provides financial support directly to Canadian households in need to help them afford their housing costs
    • the Canada Community Housing Initiative, which supports PTs to protect, regenerate and expand community housing through ongoing support to housing providers delivering subsidized housing to low-income Canadians
    • Provincial and Territorial Priority Funding, which supports regional needs and priorities related to community housing repair, construction and affordability support

Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy is a community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness across Canada. This program provides funding to urban, Indigenous, rural and remote communities to help them address their local homelessness needs.

Distinction-based Indigenous Housing Strategies

The co-development of distinctions-based Indigenous housing strategies is a priority for the Government. Indigenous leaders have told the Government that the best approach is one that respects the distinct housing needs of each group and community.

Through investments made in Budget 2017 and Budget 2018, the Government is providing $1.5 billion through Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) to support a First Nations-led housing Strategy, an Inuit-led housing plan, and the Métis Nation’s housing strategy including:

  • $600 million over 3 years to support new construction and repairs to First Nation housing units on reserve, as well as the development of a 10-year Housing Strategy that is being done with First Nations
  • $400 million over 10 years to support the implementation of the Inuit Nunangat Housing Strategy, including new construction and repairs of housing units in Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, and Inuvialuit. This is in addition to the $240 million over 10 years announced in Budget 2017 to support housing in Nunavut
  • $500 million over 10 years to support the Métis Nation housing strategy

The Inuit Nunangat Housing Strategy and Métis Nation Housing Strategy are in the implementation phase. Plans for the implementation of the First Nations Housing Strategy are currently under development.

Improving Air Quality and Reducing Air Pollution

The government collaborates with provinces and territories to implement Canada’s Air Quality Management System (AQMS). As part of the AQMS, in consultation with provinces and territories, the Government is updating the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS) which drive continuous improvement of air quality across the country. In 2016, the government introduced the Multi-Sector Air Pollutants Regulations, which established Canada's first-ever mandatory national air pollutant emissions standards for major industrial facilities. Most recently, the government established regulations to reduce air pollution from petroleum refineries, upgraders, and certain petrochemical facilities, and from certain types of engines. In addition, measures to reduce greenhouse gases can contribute to reducing air pollution, such as the regulations to phase out coal-fired electricity.

The Government of Canada is taking action to help reduce the overall levels of air pollution. Releasing pollutants into the atmosphere is subject to a number of regulations aiming to limit the amount of pollutants that are released into the air each year. The Government of Canada has put in place regulations to phase out coal-fired electricity, adopted some of the most stringent national standards in the world for air pollutant emissions from new cars and light trucks, and put a price on carbon pollution that is creating incentives for industry to invest in cleaner technologies. In 2016, as part of the federal government's contribution to the implementation of the Air Quality Management System, the Government of Canada introduced the Multi-sector Air Pollutants Regulations, which established Canada's first ever mandatory national air pollutant emissions standards for major industrial facilities.


The Government of Canada supports local priorities and communities through the Investing in Canada Plan, with funding for public transit, social infrastructure, green infrastructure and rural and northern communities. For example, the following programs are delivered under the Investing in Canada Plan:

  • the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program provides long-term, stable funding to help communities, including Indigenous communities, reduce air and water pollution, provide clean water, increase resilience to climate change and create a clean-growth economy; build strong, dynamic and inclusive communities; and ensure all families in Canada have access to modern, reliable services
  • the Canada Community-Building Fund (former Gas Tax Fund) is a permanent source of funding to provinces and territories, who in turn flow this funding to their municipalities to support local infrastructure priorities. Municipalities can pool, bank and borrow against this funding, providing significant financial flexibility
  • the Natural Infrastructure Fund aims to support projects using natural or hybrid approaches to protect the natural environment, support healthy and resilient communities, contribute to economic growth, and improve access to nature for Canadians
  • the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund (CCSF), managed by Canadian Heritage, seeks to improve physical conditions for artistic creativity and innovation. It is also designed to increase access for Canadians to performing arts, visual arts, media arts, and to museum collections and heritage displays. The CCSF supports the improvement, renovation and construction of arts and heritage facilities, the establishment of creative hubs, the acquisition of specialized equipment as well as conducting feasibility studies. Through its objectives, the CCSF helps make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. In 2020-2021, the CCSF program approved $42.9 million in support of 204 cultural infrastructure projects
  • the First Nation Infrastructure Fund combines multiple funding sources, including the Canada Community Building Fund, to support the delivery of essential community infrastructure on-reserve

Public transit

Through the Permanent Public Transit Program, the Government of Canada will provide $14.9 billion in funding over eight years with $3 billion per year ongoing starting in 2026-27 to support the expansion of permanent public transit systems and active transportation networks across Canada. This funding builds on the $20 billion in funding already available for transit across the country through existing programs. These investments will:

  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • provide health benefits
  • better serve disadvantaged groups including:
    • women
    • seniors
    • youth
    • persons with disabilities
    • visible minorities
    • those with low incomes

In addition to the Zero Emission Transit Fund and the Rural Transit Solutions Fund, the Program includes the Active Transportation Fund which supports healthy lifestyles in our communities and the growing demand for active transportation infrastructure by building new and expanded networks of pathways, bike lanes, trails and pedestrian bridges.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank is targeting public transit investments totaling $5 billion across the country for projects including Zero Emission Buses (ZEBs), light rail transit, bus rapid transit, subways and transit-oriented development as a part of the its 3 year Growth Plan.

COVID-19 response

The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy provides eligible organizations affected by COVID-19 with direct and easy-to-access rent support. Lockdown Support supports organizations with locations that are temporarily forced to close or temporarily have their business activities significantly restricted by a public health order issued under the laws of Canada or a province or territory.

The Safe Restart Agreement supports provinces and territories to safely restart their economies and make our country more resilient to possible future surges in cases of COVID-19. Through the Agreement, the Government of Canada will contribute to support municipalities to put in place appropriate precautions to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and manage public spaces and critical services, like public transit.

The Canada Healthy Communities Initiative was launched in Fall 2020 to provide up to $31 million in existing federal funding to help communities across Canada to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in an inclusive and innovative manner. The initiative will help communities by:

  • supporting innovative ideas for small- scale, community-led infrastructure projects
  • creating safer and more vibrant public spaces
  • improving mobility options and enabling digital solutions

The Economic and Fiscal Update 2021 added $30 million in funding for this initiative.

As part of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, a temporary COVID-19 Resilience stream with over $3 billion available in existing funding has been created to increase funding flexibility and provide an increased federal cost-share. An additional $190 million has been added to the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream, specifically to support ventilation improvement projects in public buildings.

The Government of Canada initially launched the Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) in October 2020 as a $1-billion initiative to help address the urgent housing needs of Canadians who are vulnerable, especially in the context of COVID-19, through the rapid construction of affordable housing. The program has since been expanded with an additional $1.5 billion to address urgent housing needs. As a result, at least 10,000 units of permanent affordable housing are expected to be created for the most vulnerable populations. Under the RHI, 33 per cent of units will support women or women and their children, and over 41 per cent of units will support Indigenous Peoples.

What Canada is doing to contribute to sustainable cities and communities abroad

Canada played an active role in the collaboration and discussion that led to the adoption of the New Urban Agenda at the UN’s Habitat III Summit in Ecuador. Governments around the world, including Canada’s, strengthened their commitment to make a meaningful contribution to the sustainable development of towns, cities and human settlements for the next 20 years. Furthermore, through the Feminist International Assistance Policy, Canada is committed to pursuing inclusive and sustainable growth, and ensuring actions that contribute to building local capacity.

Canada has committed to actions under international commitments on waste. In signing these international agreements, Canada made a commitment to develop national legislation to promote the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials. These international agreements and implementing domestic regulations represent significant steps taken to manage hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials on a global scale.

Canada works internationally to reduce transboundary air pollution under the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement and the Gothenburg Protocol to the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. Under the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement, both countries work to address transboundary air pollution that affects tens of millions of people. Canada has committed to actions to reduce air pollution from domestic sources under the Gothenburg Protocol. This Protocol is of interest to Canada because it also addresses transboundary air pollution from Europe and parts of Asia, some of which is transported to North America.

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