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What Canadas Census Reveals About Housing Needs

Written By: Jim Adair
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Canada had more one-person households in 2016 than at any time since Confederation in 1867.

More than one in three young adults aged 20 to 34 are living with at least one parent, another all-time high.

The fastest-growing type of household is composed of multigenerational families, with at least three generations of the same family.

These are some of the results from Canadas 2016 Census, which are being >

Canada has 14.1 million private households, with 9.5 million census families married or common-law couples, with or without children, and lone-parent families. Just over 32 per cent of households are non-census family households people who live alone, two or more roommates or siblings living together.

One-person households account for 28.2 per cent of all households -- the most common type of living arrangement. Statistics Canada says, "income redistribution, pensions and the increased presence of women in the workforce have led to more people being economically independent today than in the past, especially in older age groups. In addition, higher separation and divorce rates have led to more people living alone instead of in couples."

The agency says population aging and higher life expectancy have also contributed to the increase, noting that a larger share of seniors live alone than other age groups.

"Senior women are more likely to live alone than men. They have a higher life expectancy and they also tend to marry men older than themselves. As a result, they are more often widowed than senior men," says Statistics Canada. "However, since the 1970s, men have seen larger gains in their life expectancy and this has led to couples living together longer."

The number of couples living without children is growing faster than the number of couples with children, mostly because the aging baby boomers are becoming empty nesters.

But thats not happening quickly in many households.

Between 2001 and 2016, the share of 20 to 34-year-olds who were living with at least one parent has increased with each census. Nationally, 34.7 per cent of people in that age group still live with their parents. In Ontario its 42.1 per cent and in the Toronto area its 47.4 per cent, the highest in the country.

Statistics Canada says the high numbers in Ontario are due to "a combination of economic realities, including the high cost of housing and cultural norms that favour young adults living with their parents for longer."

Quebec City had the lowest number of young people still living with their parents, at 23.8 per cent.

These trends are also being seen in many other countries. Compare Canadas one-person household percentage 28.2 with the United States 27.5 in 2012, the United Kingdom 28.5 in 2014, France 33.8 in 2011 and Japan 34.5 in 2015. The highest rate is Germany 41.4 per cent in 2015.

The rates for young adults living at home are also similar. In Canada, the national percentage is 34.7, while in the U.S. its 34.1. In the European Union in 2012 it was 48 per cent.

Another Canadian trend is to multigenerational households. They represented only 2.9 per cent of households in 2016, but since 2001 they have been the fastest-growing type. The Census says 6.3 per cent of the population living in private households 2.2 million people lived in multigenerational homes in 2016.

Earlier this year, a report by the Canadian Home Builders Association CHBA said that "a remarkable demographic trend is underway in Canada, which promises to have significant impacts on housing demand over the next five to 12 years."

It says theres a "baby boomlet", as the millennial generation adults aged 25 to 34 start their own families and are looking for "family-oriented housing." It was thought that much of this demand would be satisfied when baby boomers retired and downsized to smaller homes and condominiums, but the CHBA report says this isnt happening.

"Many boomers intend to remain in their current family homes indefinitely. The move to downsize into other types of housing is simply not materializing at the level anticipated. As a result, the numbers of single-family dwellings that younger families demand will not come through the resale market, especially in fast-growing urban areas."

The report says only about half of the single-family homes needed by the next generation will be available on the resale market. The Altus consulting group estimates that 300,000 new low-rise homes will be required during the next decade.

"The long-term consequences of current trends for baby boomers and millennial parents will be consequential for both groups," warns the CHBA report. "If millennials are unable to establish equity stakes in the market they will be unlikely to meet the asking prices of baby boomers when they do want to sell.

"Increasing numbers of births appear likely to require changes in the demographically unsupported trend toward high-density high-rise condominium housing forms that have dominated many urban regions over the past decade."

The association is calling on governments at all levels to "reduce current barriers to increasing supply of low-rise housing" and focus on allowing for complete family-oriented communities. It says this includes "recognizing that policies favouring excessive intensification particularly high-rise construction are no longer supported by demographic trends."

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