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Homeownership Rates Drop in 88 of Canada’s 100 Largest Cities

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Homeownership Rates Drop in 88 of Canada’s 100 Largest Cities
7 min. read
  • Homeownership rates decline in Canada for the first time in over 45 years, with 11 out of 13 provinces seeing their share of homeowners dropping since the previous results posted by Statistics Canada.
  • According to the 2016 Statistics Canada results, 5 years was enough for the percentage of homeowners to decrease in a shocking 88 of Canada’s 100 most populous cities, in some cases by as much as 7%.
  • In 2016, the share of homeowners decreased in 17 of the 20 cities that posted the most significant increases in homeownership rates up until 2011.
  • At 90.8%, Caledon, ON has the highest homeownership rate of all the cities included in our analysis, whereas Montréal, QC posts the lowest percentage of homeowners (37%).

Canada is predominantly a nation of homeowners. The majority of Canadians own their dwelling, with only 32% of the total population resorting to renting, according to Statistics Canada. The homeownership rate rose steadily for four decades, going from 60.3% in 1971 to 68.4% in 2006 and culminating at a high of 69% in 2011.

However, the 2016 Statcan census marked the first decrease in share of homeowners in almost half a century, with a 1.2% decline knocking the country’s homeownership rate down to 67.8%.

So why the recent change in the evolution of Canada’s homeownership trend? The burst of China’s speculative bubble sent shock waves through the global economy, according to a 2015 analysis by Maclean’s, with especially large effects on Canada’s resource-based, export-driven economy. The collapse of oil prices and the country’s heavy reliance on exports to its Asian partner pushed Canada into a recession. The ensuing economic deceleration affected wages, hence lowering people’s purchasing power. Home prices, however, kept going up, leading to the decline in homeownership rates revealed by the 2016 Statcan numbers.

This drop in homeownership rates also means that the share of renters went up nationwide: 4.6 million Canadians were renting their home at the time of the last Census, taking the proportion of households that rent from 31% in 2011 to 32.2% in 2016. However, homeownership is still the norm in Canada, as owners outnumber renters more than two-to-one.

 

Homeownership Rates Decline in 11 Out of 13 Provinces Since 2011

The only two provinces where the share of homeowners rose compared to 2011 are Québec and Northwest Territories. However, despite the increase, these jurisdictions still have two of the lowest homeownership rates in the country, with homeowner rates in 2016 at 61.3% and 53.7% respectively.

At 20%, Nunavut has the lowest homeownership rate in all of Canada, much lower in fact than the national average; according to the Nunavut Housing Corporation, this is mostly due to the critical shortage of housing, but also to the high costs associated with owning in the territory, a phenomenon the local authorities are trying to curb through several subsidy and assistance programs.

Despite slight drops compared to 2011, the highest proportions of homeowners in the nation are found in Alberta, with a current rate of 72.4%, New Brunswick (74.4%), and Newfoundland and Labrador (76.7%). The main factors contributing to the high homeownership rates in these provinces are affordability, based on ownership costs as a percentage of average income, and a better balance between supply and demand. Higher consumer confidence, stemming from job sustainability and higher than average income, also factor in.

Majority of Cities Remain Owner-Dominated Despite Decreases

 

While Montréal, QC, Victoria, BC, and Vancouver, BC have long been renter-dominated, none of Canada’s 100 most populous cities switched from owner-majority to renter-majority between 2011 and 2016, according to Statcan. Waterloo, ON posted the biggest drop (7.2%), followed by Nanaimo, BC (5.9%) and Abbotsford, BC (5.6%), but homeowners remain the firm majority in all three.

The cases that stand out are Airdrie, AB and Milton, ON: despite a significant growth in population (46% and 32% respectively), the share of homeowners in these cities went down. In Airdrie, this was mostly due to the financial insecurity prompted by the huge fluctuations in oil price. As a Fort McMurray local stated back in 2015, “I just want to be somewhere relaxed, somewhere where we know [my husband’s] job is secure, we don’t need to worry from day to day what the price of oil is.” Alberta was among the provinces most affected by the drop in oil prices, and this was reflected in the situation in some of its cities, where the financial uncertainty kept people from investing in a home. In conditions like these, renting becomes the more viable alternative.

Prior to the period of turmoil following the oil price crash, some cities were seeing considerable increases in homeownership rates, with Ottawa, ON, Vancouver, BC, Montréal, QC, Burnaby, BC, Milton, ON, and New Westminster, BC posting increases north of 10%. Of the 20 cities where the share of homeowners was increasing at the fastest rate up until 2011, only two were continuing their upward path in 2016: Montréal, QC and Saskatoon, SK.

4 Cities Post Overall Increases in Owner Share Above 10%

Since 2001, homeowners became the majority population in 4 of the cities included in our analysis; Québec City, QC, Sherbrooke, QC, Saint -Jerome, QC, and New Westminster, BC were all renter-dominated a little over 15 years ago but have become owner majority since 2006. Moreover, these cities are also among the 20 real estate markets with the most significant increases in homeownership rates compared to approx. 15 years ago.

New Westminster posted the biggest jump (17.6%), and 3 other cities also experienced increases over 10%: Montréal, QC (14.2%), Saint-Jerome, QC (11.3%), and Burnaby, BC (10.1%).

 

An emphasis on more affordable condo construction is one of the main factors contributing to the increase in the share of homeowners in many of these cities. Also, the proportion of households with monthly housing costs considered affordable decreased slightly, falling from 24.4% in 2006 to 24.1% in 2016.

Caledon Has Highest Homeownership Rate in Canada, Montréal Lowest

No fewer than 15 of the 20 cities with the highest share of homeowners are in Ontario, meaning this province leads the way when it comes to the highest homeownership rates in individual cities. Alberta and British Columbia have two cities each in the top 20. Québec also makes an appearance, as Blainville, QC, with the seventeenth highest homeownership rate in Canada, breaks the province’s historically low homeownership rate.

Quebecers’ disinterest in homeownership is substantiated by the fact that the province contains nine of the top 20 cities with the lowest percentages of homeowners in the country. The Québec Federation of Real Estate Boards (QFREB) explains this by emphasizing Quebecers’ cultural and historical background, stating that the status of being a homeowner is considered to be of less importance in the culture of Québec than in many other parts of Canada.

Toronto and Vancouver are also high on the list of cities with the lowest share of homeowners. However, their presence in this ranking is mostly due to economic factors. Given they are two of the country’s most important financial hubs, people mostly come here for the substantial business and job opportunities and opt for the flexibility renting affords them. Moreover, the prohibitive home prices in these cities also represent a major impediment to would-be homeowners.

 

No fewer than 37 of Canada’s 100 biggest cities have seen their homeownership rates go down compared to 2001, and demand for rental housing is starting to outpace homeownership for the first time in decades, as reported by the Canadian Rental Housing Index. Only time will tell if this was just a bump in the road to the increasing trend in homeownership that started in the early 1970’s or is the beginning of a decline initiated by the economic events after 2011. Despite these changes however, homeowners are still the majority in Canada, according to Statcan 2016 numbers, with only three cities being renter-dominated: Montréal, QC, Victoria, BC, and Vancouver, BC.

 

Check out the table below for more data on Canada’s 100 most populous cities included in the analysis:

 

 

 

 

Methodology

* Update 09/13/18: Our analysis originally including over 100 Canadian cities, Charlottetown, the 102nd most populous city in Canada, appeared in our Top 20 Cities with the Lowest Homeownership Rates in 2016. Since we decided to focus only on the 100 largest cities in the country, Charlottetown was excluded from our final results.

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We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the story in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to Point2Homes.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.

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