Census Shows Canada’s Home Ownership Rate Falling to a 20-Year Low

A construction worker works on a new home in Ottawa on May 27, 2021. A steady rise in home prices has driven many potential buyers off the market and pushed them into rents.Patrick Doyle/Reuters

New census data showed that Canada’s home ownership rate fell to 66.5 percent last year, the lowest level since the turn of the century as more Canadians became renters.

Statistics Canada also released data on Aboriginal people in Canada along with housing numbers. The census found that the indigenous population of Canada continues to grow faster than the non-indigenous population, but at a slower rate than previous data reports. The data show that the total Indigenous population is also younger than the non-Indigenous population by an average of 8.2 years. Among the indigenous groups, the Inuit are among the youngest, followed by the First Nations.

In terms of housing, the percentage of homeowners has been declining since it reached 69 percent in 2011. The steady rise in home prices has pushed many potential buyers out of the market and pushed them into rents. At the same time, the proportion of people living alone or with roommates has risen.

The census found that the increase in the number of renters has outpaced the increase in the number of homeowners over the past five years, with some of the biggest rises occurring in medium-sized cities in British Columbia and Ontario such as Kelowna, Barry and Oshawa. Last year, the country’s rental rate was 33.1 percent compared to 31.8 percent in 2016.

“People who live alone or with roommates are less likely to own their own home than other families, such as childless or childless couples,” said the census report released by Statistics Canada.

In British Columbia, home to the country’s most expensive real estate, the homeownership rate fell to 66.8 percent from 70.0 percent. In Ontario, the rate fell to 68.4 percent from 71.4 percent.

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Surprisingly, the census showed that shelter costs have become more manageable over the past five years. The national unaffordability rate fell to 20.9 percent last year from 24.1 percent in 2016, according to Statscan. The census defines unaffordability as spending more than 30 percent of its gross income on shelter costs.

However, the census took place in the spring of 2021, when the federal government was providing income support to those who had lost work due to COVID-19 restrictions. This has helped many Canadians pay for shelter costs such as rent, utilities, and mortgages. Meanwhile, mortgage rates were record low and landlords were lowering rental rates to attract tenants, many of whom fled their rental units when they lost business.

Housing advocates have said that the decline in the rate of unaffordability does not mean that the country’s housing problem is improving.

“When this data was collected, there was a surprising amount of government transfers to low-income families,” said Andy Yan, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University. People got income but it was temporary. This is not the end of the housing challenges for most Canadians.

Since the spring of 2021, the housing market has become more expensive for owners and renters. Mortgage rates doubled as the Bank of Canada aggressively raised interest rates to slow inflation. In addition, the rental price jumped as Canadians continued to exit the market and more people migrated to Canada.

The data released Wednesday was the fifth of seven release dates for 2021 census results.

The census counted 1.8 million indigenous people in the country. That made up 5 percent of the country’s total population last year, compared to 4.9 percent in 2016.

It found that the indigenous population has increased by 9.4 percent over the past five years, nearly twice the pace of the non-indigenous population. But the growth wasn’t as sharp as the previous five years, when the indigenous population grew by 18.9 percent from 2011 to 2016.

One of the main reasons for the increase was natural growth, or higher birth rates and an increase in lifespan. Another reason is the mobility response, when people who may not have previously been identified as indigenous are more likely to do so. Statistics Canada said this is due in part to personal reasons, recent treaties and conventions, changes in legislation, court cases, and broader societal factors that can influence how people are identified. The agency said that quantifying the increase from people likely to self-identify as Indigenous is something that could be studied further.

The Statscan and census also showed differences between the growth rates of the three major groups of Indigenous people.

Christopher Penny, director of the Statscan Center for Indigenous Statistics and Partnership, told reporters on a call to discuss the census.

While the total First Nations population grew by 9.7 percent from 2016, the growth was slower for First Nations with registered or treaty Indian status at 4.1 percent than for non-registered or non-treaty Indians who had grown by 27.2 percent since year 2016.

The Métis population grew by 6.3 percent over the five-year period, while the Inuit population grew by 8.5 percent.

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