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To buy or to rent: The housing market continues to be reshaped

To buy or to rent: The housing market continues to be reshaped

Everyone needs a place to call home, but home isn't just a roof over your head. One's home can also be a source of security, dignity and identity. Not everyone has a home, and some do not have a home that meets their needs. Should I buy or rent? Where should I live? Can I afford my home? These are questions on the minds of many Canadians.

In Canada, people do not just need a home, they have a right to one. The passing of the National Housing Strategy Act in 2019 recognized housing as a human right. The Act establishes the right to a standard of housing that is free from systemic and prejudicial barriers. It also focuses on providing affordable housing for those groups who are in greatest need and outlines commitments made by the government to achieve equitable housing outcomes.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to upheavals in the housing market and housing needs of many Canadians. But Canada's housing stock has been built over time through long-term construction trends, shifting housing preferences, population growth and an aging society, housing policy, and investment. The resulting difference in housing supply and demand, coupled with modified expectations for the future, has led to large changes in home prices. The housing market has continued to change since Census Day on May 11, 2021, with house prices continuing to rise through February 2022 before tumbling over the spring and summer in the face of interest rate hikes designed to curb inflation. Trying to figure out the right time to buy is a difficult decision that can leave Canadians wondering how long they want to hold out on entering the real estate market—or whether they even want to. For many Canadians, both in and outside the housing market, housing options will continue to unfold over time.

The 2021 Canadian Housing Survey reported that the growth of renter households outpaced the growth of owner households, pushing down the homeownership rate in Canada. The 2020 Canadian Housing Statistics Program also highlighted that the share of owner-occupied dwellings had edged down from 2019 to 2020, while non-resident ownership remained low. Today's release, from the 2021 Census, builds on these findings. It highlights the housing tenure trends of the past decade and the change in housing affordability since the onset of the pandemic. It explores downtown areas, where growth in population and housing investment is large, with two out of five households downtown (39.9%) living in condominiums in 2021 and half (50.1%) of these downtown condominiums being rented. It concludes by examining the differences in housing needs across generations.


The homeownership rate falls

The proportion of Canadian households who own their home—or the homeownership rate (66.5% in 2021)—is on the decline in Canada after peaking in 2011 (69.0%). The growth in renter households (+21.5%) is more than double the growth in owner households (+8.4%).

Adults under the age of 75 were less likely to own their home in 2021 than adults in that age range a decade earlier—especially young millennials aged 25 to 29 years (36.5% in 2021 vs. 44.1% in 2011).

A large share of newer builds are rentals

Recently built dwellings are increasingly likely to be occupied by renters—40.4% of the housing built in the five years ending in 2021 was tenant-occupied, the highest tenant rate next to that of dwellings built in the 1960s post-war apartment boom, at 44.5%.

Over one-third of recently built dwellings, those constructed from 2011 to 2021, were occupied and primarily maintained by millennial (36.6%) renters or owners in 2021, the largest share of any generation. Millennials also represented the largest share of condominium occupants (30.2%) compared with the other generations.

The share of condominiums continues to rise

The rising trend of condominium construction continues—the share of occupied dwellings that are condominiums edged up from 13.3% in 2016 to 15.0% in 2021. Most condominiums (90.0%) are located in Canada's large cities, known as census metropolitan areas (CMAs).

In Canada's CMAs, condominiums made up 39.9% of the occupied stock in the primary downtowns in 2021, and half of these downtown condos were being rented out by investors.

Home values continue to surge through 2021

Expected home values rose in large and small municipalities (census subdivisions [CSDs]) in Ontario and British Columbia from 2016 to 2021. Among CSDs, 77.8% in Ontario and 46.1% in British Columbia saw the average expected value of homes rise by over 50%.

Differences in the impact of temporary COVID-19 benefits on household incomes—for renters and for homeowners—were a key contributor to the different degrees of improvement in housing affordability seen for each group, from 2016 to 2021.

Canadians find their housing more affordable in 2021 because of higher incomes

The rate of unaffordable housing, or the proportion of households that spent 30% or more of their income on shelter costs, fell from 24.1% in 2016 to 20.9% in 2021. The rate of unaffordable housing in Canada for renters fell from 40.0% in 2016 to 33.2% in 2021, with most of the decline occurring among renters earning below the median household income of all renters (68.4% in 2016, compared with 56.0% in 2021).

Unaffordable housing rates are highest in downtowns. In 33 of 42 downtowns of large urban centres, the percentage of renters spending more than 30% of their income on shelter costs in 2021 was above the national average.

Almost 1.5 million Canadian households lived in "core housing need" in 2021, defined as living in an unsuitable, inadequate or unaffordable dwelling and not able to afford alternative housing in their community. The core housing need rate fell from 12.7% in 2016 to 10.1% in 2021, driven largely by the improvements in household incomes and housing affordability.

There were 603,040 children (8.8%) living in core housing need in 2021, down from 13.3% in 2016. Millennials who lived with a roommate were less than half as likely to live in core housing need (7.4%) as those who lived alone (15.3%).


Read more : The Daily — To buy or to rent: The housing market continues to be reshaped by several factors as Canadians search for an affordable place to call home (

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Québec Landlords Association

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