Housing affordability in Canada

16 July 2019

With the cost of property through the roof in many of Canada’s major cities, buying a home can seem out of reach. Yet homeownership remains a goal for many Canadians, and those who are unable to afford the place of their dreams are often willing to compromise. For some, this requires buying a smaller place or having a long commute; for others, it means moving to a more affordable city. But are Canadians really willing to move to own their own four walls? And which cities would they consider moving to? We polled 1,200 Canadian adults to find out.

Key findings

The majority of Canadians are willing to move cities to own a home

More Canadians are willing to move to another city to be able to afford a home than not – but not by much. According to the survey, 54% of adults said they’d move compared to 46% who wouldn’t. Generation Z adults (18-24 year olds) are the most willing to move, with 85% saying they would consider relocating. The majority of millennials (25-34 year olds) and those aged 35-44 are also open to the idea, with almost 70% saying they’d consider moving to buy.

The older you are, the less likely you are to be open to moving – likely because older Canadians already own their homes or are set in their cities. According to the survey, 57% of the upper-age bracket of Generation X (45-54 year olds) would consider moving, compared to 51% of 55-64 year olds and 26% of those 65+. Men and women almost equally say they’d relocate to be able to buy a place, with 55% of men saying they’d consider the move, and 52% of women saying the same.

Most popular cities to move to for homeownership

Toronto is one of the most expensive Canadian cities to purchase a home, but also the most desirable to be a homeowner in. According to the survey, 10% of respondents, the equivalent of about 3 million Canadian adults, said they’d move to Toronto in order to be able to buy a place. Over a quarter of Generation Z would happily move to Toronto while just 3.5% of those from the Prairie Provinces said the same.

Where Canadians are willing to move in order to be able to afford a home

Halifax was the second most popular choice (9.67%), particularly among those aged 35-44 (16%). It’s not so desirable for Generation Z though, with just over 2% saying they’d consider moving there. St. Catharines/Niagara came in third place (8%), followed by Ottawa (7.83%), Kelowna, London and Kitchener (all 6.92%). Ottawa was particularly popular among young folk, with over a fifth of 18-24 year olds saying they’d be willing to move there to buy. Montreal and Vancouver are popular with younger Canadians, but their appeal steadily drops off with age. According to the survey, 17.02% of Generation Z would be willing to move to both cities and 12.65% of millennials. Regina is the city people are least likely to want to move to (2.67%), followed by Whistler (2.75%), Windsor (3.5%), Saskatoon (3.58%) and Oshawa (4.08%).

10 most popular cities by age
18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
1. Toronto 1. Toronto 1. Toronto 1. Halifax 1. St. Catharines/Niagra 1. Kitchener
2. Ottawa 2. Montreal 2. Halifax 2. St. Catharines/Niagra 2. Halifax 2. London
3. Montreal 2. Vancouver 3. Ottawa 3. Calgary 3. Kelowna 3. Halifax
3. Vancouver 4. Halifax 4. Montreal 4. Toronto 4. Ottawa 4. St. Catharines/Niagra
5. Kitchener 5. Calgary 4. Kitchener 4. Kitchener 4. London 4. Kelowna
5. St. Catharines/Niagra 6. Hamilton 6. London 4. Victoria 6. Calgary 4. Victoria
7. Quebec 6. Victoria 7. St. Catharines/Niagra 7. Ottawa 6. Winnipeg 7. St Johns
8. Calgary 6. Kelowna 7. Canmore 7. London 7. Toronto 7. Windsor
8. London 9. Ottawa 9. Oshawa 7. Vancouver 7. Kitchener 7. Edmonton
8. Saskatoon 10. Quebec 10. Calgary 10. Kelowna 7. Montreal, St Johns, Canmore 7. Vancouver, Oshawa

West Coasters most willing to move

The data suggests those from the West Coast are more likely to move to buy a place, with well over half of Canadians from the region (59.83%) claiming they’d make the change. West Coasters are most likely to be open to moving to Kelowna (19.66%), followed by Calgary and Victoria (both 12.82%) and Vancouver (11.97%). They’re least likely to move to Oshawa (0.85%), Quebec or Hamilton (both 1.71%).

Just 50% of Canadians living in the Prairie Provinces would consider moving cities. The top city picks are Calgary (13.60%), Kelowna (12.72%), Canmore (11.40%), Edmonton and Winnipeg (both 10.09%). The least popular destinations are Hamilton (0.88%), Oshawa, Kitchener and Quebec (all 2.19%).

53.92% of Central Canadians might move to buy a place, with Toronto (13.21%), St. Catharines/Niagara (10.91%), Kitchener (9.68%) and Ottawa (9.52%) the most popular destinations. The least popular cities to move are Regina (1.38%), Saskatoon (2.15%), Edmonton (2.46%), Whistler and Winnipeg (both 2.61%).

10 most popular cities by region
West Coast Central Canada Atlantic Region Prairie Province
1. Kelowna 1. Toronto 1. Halifax 1. Calgary
2. Calgary 2. St. Catharines/Niagara 2. Ottawa 2. Kelowna
2. Victoria 3. Kitchener 3. Montreal 3. Canmore
4. Vancouver 4. Ottawa 4. Toronto 4. Edmonton
5. Saskatoon 5. London 5. Quebec 4. Winnipeg
6. Halifax 6. Halifax 5. St Johns 6. Halifax
7. Edmonton 7. Montreal 7. Victoria 7. Victoria
7. St. Catharines/Niagara 8. Hamilton 7. Vancouver 8. Saskatoon
7. St Johns 9. Oshawa 9. London 8. Regina
10. Canmore 9. Vancouver 10. Kitchener 10. Vancouver

Will election policies on housing affordability impact the way Canadians vote?

Many Canadians aren’t willing to move cities to buy a home and some are hoping government policies will help make housing more affordable overall. With the federal election coming up in October 2019, we asked Canadians if party policies to improve housing affordability would impact the way they vote and what policies they might like to see.

According to the survey, 38.09% of Canadians say they either somewhat or strongly agree housing affordability party policies will influence their vote, compared to just 16.33% of Canadians who say they either somewhat or strongly disagree. 39.58% said they neither agree nor disagree, and 6% said they wouldn’t be voting in the upcoming election or would prefer not to say.

Younger Canadians are most likely to vote based on party policies in regards to housing affordability. 61.70% of Generation Z (18-24 years old) say it will influence their vote. This is followed by millennials aged 25-34 years old (48.80%) then by 35-44 years old (46.85%), 45-54 year olds (39.05%), 55-64 year olds (32.46%), and those aged 65+ (24.62%).

More women than men say their vote will be impacted by party policies on housing affordability (41.65% of women compared to just 33.99% of men).

Regionally, West Coasters are most likely to be influenced by housing affordability policies, with just under half of survey respondents in the area (49.57%) saying they’ll be influenced. 38.89% of Canadians in the Atlantic region are expected to have their vote influenced by housing policies. This is followed by those in Central Canada (38.24%) and those in the Prairie Provinces (30.26%).

What should the government do to help housing affordability?

With many Canadians’ votes influenced by housing affordability policies, we dug a little deeper to see what potential suggestions are popular.

The most popular suggestion was to increase the existing First Time Home Buyers Tax Credit. Over a third of Canadians (36.25%) would like to see the government boost the tax credit from $750 to $3,000. The second most popular measure was support for the development of more housing for first-time home buyers by incentivising developers (30.92%). This was most popular among West Coasters and Central Canadians. 27.08% then said the local government should have better planning systems so there are locations ready to accommodate a range of new housing types.

26% of Canadians think the government should bring in financial disincentives for foreign buyers. A similar percentage would like to see improved commuter transportation to provide access to non-central housing (25.33%). This was particularly popular with Central Canadians (30.88%).

Other policies some Canadians think could improve housing affordability include maintaining and possibly increasing the tax on property owners who have vacant or underutilised properties (25.33%), as well as doubling the first-time homebuyers maximum Land Transfer Tax refund so no eligible home buyers would pay any land transfer tax (19.58%). 13.08% of Canadian adults think the government should relax zoning laws like the restrictions on multi-unit construction and lot conversion.

A proportion of Canadians think the government shouldn’t actually do anything at all – 13.67% of Canadians think they should let the market decide.

Over a tenth (11.08%) of Canadian adults said they don’t think housing affordability needs to be improved upon. Those living in the Atlantic Region are most likely to say they don’t think housing affordability is an issue (16.11%), with those from the West Coast the least (6.84%).

Saving for a home?

While saving for a home can seem daunting – and may even make you consider moving cities – there are ways to build your savings. Consider putting your money into a high interest savings account to boost your savings and get you one step closer to your own set of keys. You can compare providers on Finder, or find the right savings account for your circumstances in our handy guide.

Methodology

This data is from a survey of 1,200 Canadian adults commissioned by Finder and conducted by OnePoll in March 2019. Due to not having enough respondents, the North (Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon) was not included.

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