Home ownership rates drop as more young Canadians opt to rent: census
At age 30, 50.2 per cent of millennials owned their homes, compared to 55 per cent of baby boomers at the same age.
Oct. 25, 2017
Ursula Toaze, 25, and new husband Kevin Wheeler, 26, are giving up a little privacy by living with his dad rent-free for at least two years so they can save for a home.
In August they gave up their Danforth Ave. apartment.
“We absolutely loved it,” said Toaze of the $1,100 monthly rental above a hair salon. But between rent, utilities, car expenses and her remaining student debt, the couple, who both work in retail, were struggling to save.
“At the end of the day, we weren’t putting anything aside. We want a house, we want to settle down, we want kids,” she said.
They are among a millennial cohort who are renting or staying longer with family while scrounging for a down payment for a house or condo in an increasingly unaffordable housing market, according to the latest census figures.
The figures show a modest but unmistakable decline in the number of 30-year-old Canadian homeowners. Only 50.2 per cent of millennials owned their homes in 2016, compared to 55 per cent of baby boomers, who were the same age in 1981.
In the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), 39 per cent of people aged 20 to 34 own their own home.
Young adults today are more likely to live in apartments than their 1981 counterparts, are less likely to live in single-detached homes, and — as Statistics Canada revealed in the summer — more likely than ever to still be living at home.
In the Toronto CMA, there were 22.5 per cent more renters in 2016 than in 2006 but 16.7 per cent more homeowners.
Graham Haines, 33, research manager for Ryerson’s City Building Institute, has a personal and a professional perspective on the city’s millennial housing challenge.
The institute recently released a report calling for 8,000 new rentals a year in Toronto to increase the region’s dire vacancy rate of about 1.4 per cent.
Meantime, he and his partner, who rent a two-bedroom place for about $1,800 a month, wonder about the feasibility of staying in Toronto long-term. “I look at the cost of a mortgage for anything more than two bedrooms and it’s really expensive,” he said.
If they moved, he said it would more likely be to a smaller city like Hamilton rather than one of the 905-area communities around Toronto.
“We’ve been lucky. Being professionals we look good on a lot rental applications. Not everyone has that advantage,” he said.
Census data showed 40 per cent of Canadian renters are spending more than 30 per cent of their average monthly income on housing. Only 17 per cent of homeowners spent that much.
In the Toronto CMA, nearly half of tenants — 46.9 per cent — spend 30 per cent or more on shelter, compared to 26.7 per cent of homeowners.
That suggests we need to adjust our policies toward rental housing and away from the promotion of home ownership that has been the focus of the last 20 years, said Haines.
“If rent is going to start becoming a more important part of our real estate sector, how (do) we make sure we’re building the right type of rental, rental where we need it and rental that’s affordable for the people who are going to be using it?” he said.
Financing is only one factor delaying home ownership, said Royal LePage CEO Phil Soper. Canadians stay in school longer, marry and have children later in life. Baby boomers are working and living longer in their own homes, where they have room to house adult children, he said.
A study by his company this year showed that 69 per cent of millennials in the peak home-buying years of 25 to 30, still expect to purchase a home within the next five years.
“The intent is there. The question is, will be they be able to afford a home and will their intent be realized,” he said.
Meantime, young adults like Michelle German, 30, are looking at how to accumulate wealth outside the traditional home ownership model. She says millennials want to develop roots and civic engagement in neighbourhoods where they may never own a home.
“My friends and I are talking about starting an investment club. We’re looking at where we park our money instead of saving for a down payment,” said German.
It’s also a cohort that increasingly values experience over accumulation.
“The experience of sitting in traffic for an hour going to Burlington is not something most people are interested in,” she said. However, “The experience of travel is more top of mind than owning a car.”