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How Many People Can Share a Bedroom?

The National Occupancy Standard (NOS) was created to support the design and evaluation of housing policies and programs in Canada. It is a reference point for “suitable” housing to inform how many people could reasonably live in a dwelling based on the number of bedrooms. While newcomers want to know what the “rules” are about children sharing bedrooms, the NOS is NOT a rule to determine if a dwelling unit can be rented to a family. Rather, the standard refers to criteria to assess if housing is suitable.

What is Housing Suitability?

According to the NOS, a private household has suitable housing when there are enough bedrooms for the family based on age, gender, and relationships among household members. 


The following criteria can help you assess whether or not a dwelling is suitable for you and your family:

  • A maximum of two people can share a bedroom
  • Household members who are married or a common-law couple can share a bedroom with their spouse or common-law partner.
  • Household members over 18 years have a separate bedroom
  • Single parents have a separate bedroom from their children
  • Children under 5 years, either of the same gender or the opposite gender may share a bedroom to reduce the number of bedrooms you require
  • Children under 18 years of the same gender can share a bedroom
  • A child aged 5 – 17 years should not share a bedroom with a child under 5 of the opposite gender.

Why is Suitable Housing Important?


When homes are overcrowded, it may contribute to health and safety issues, in addition to privacy concerns. Furthermore, overcrowded households can be an indicator that a lack of affordable housing exists in Canada. Given the current housing supply issue, the Canadian government is introducing housing programs to increase the housing supply and provide cost relief.

The NOS can help you determine the number of bedrooms you will need to ensure suitable housing. The size of the house you need depends on your family’s size and structure. For example, if you have a family of six with two parents and four daughters, you can select a three-bedroom room. However, if you have three sons and one daughter, you may need four bedrooms.

However, you’ll also have to consider other factors such as affordability, cultural conventions, and how urgently you require housing. Once you determine how many bedrooms you require based on your family size, you can use this information to begin your housing search. Or, you can work with a real estate agent who can help you search for suitable housing based on this information.

If you have a large family, suitable accommodation will require more bedrooms. This, in turn, will increase the cost of accommodation.

Three young children lying on a bed and reading a book. Their faces are blurred and their feet are clearly visible. Rules about children sharing bedrooms.
The NOS provides criteria for how many children can share a bedroom based on age and gender.

Is this National Occupancy Standard Enforced?

Ideally, it’s up to you and your family to decide how many bedrooms you will need based on your circumstances and budget. It’s also important to know that landlords cannot refuse to rent out their property because of the size of your family. The NOS cannot be used as a reason to discriminate against prospective tenants. Nor is the standard meant to be enforced.


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What are the Advantages of Children Sharing a Bedroom?

Sharing a bedroom can contribute to lower housing costs and hydro costs In addition, siblings who share a room spend more time with each other and develop a closer relationship. Children who share a room learn how to compromise and accommodate others. However, when friends come over, sharing a room can cause conflicts among siblings.

Picture of four young happy siblings and a small baby. Rules about sharing a bedroom.

What are the Disadvantages of Sharing a Room?

Having separate bedrooms requires a bigger property, which will increase your housing costs. At the same time, the hydro bill will increase as a family will use more lights, heating, and air conditioning.

If siblings share a room and are of different ages, their bedtimes might differ. Or, concentrating on studies could become a challenge when siblings have conflicting schedules for study and playtime.

If siblings sharing a bedroom have different standards in terms of cleanliness, neatness, and organization, it can lead to conflicts. If siblings are of different genders, privacy would be an issue, especially when dressing.

What to Consider When Deciding the Size of Your Home

When deciding the size of the house, think about your budget. You should be able to afford the property you will live in, including the cost of utilities. There are ways to create separate spaces by adding curtains and room separators.

Consider your children’s ages, genders, and personalities so safety, privacy, and sanity are not compromised.

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