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Reshaping the housing market: Seniors opt for the big city People born between 1946 and 1965 currently outnumber all other

generations in Canada. According to Environics, for the first time ever, there are more seniors than children under 14. Also, the 2016 Census showed that the number of people over age 55 went up by 87% between 1996 and 2006, while those between 16 and 54 only rose by 14%. So what is the impact of this demographic shift on the housing market?

Seniors – the “demographic time bomb” changing real estate trends According to the 2016 Census, compared to younger people, people over 55 own properties further away from major business and financial centres, in the suburbs and in smaller cities, where properties are larger and less expensive than homes in bigger cities. But as they grow older, many owners exit the homeownership market, opting for rentals or senior care facilities. Others start to think about downsizing by buying and moving to homes closer to city centres, trading space for accessibility and more comfort. These moves might lead to a glut of Boomer properties, larger homes in smaller cities, which would not be of interest to younger generations. Both Millennials and Gen Z-ers tend to prefer smaller, more affordable homes close to the hustle and bustle of downtown. With both seniors and younger generations looking for homes in bigger cities, the pressure on the condo market is increasing, putting the spotlight on this already hot sector.

Number of seniors increases fastest in cities with more young people A demographic shift is underway. In provinces with the highest economic growth rates, cities currently dominated by young people are seeing

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the biggest increases in senior populations. Due to the growing number of seniors moving closer to family and Boomers living in cities who are deciding to “age in place,” people over 55 are taking over the urban spaces that used to be the Millennials’ playground. To discover how seniors are changing homeownership trends, and gauge how this demographic shift might impact housing, we looked at population changes between 2006 and 2016 and at the correlation between the percentage of seniors and home prices in Canada’s 150 biggest cities.

BC boasts the highest home prices, and it’s aging fast In BC, with very few exceptions, most people over age 55 are living in cities outside the Greater Vancouver Area. The “oldest” cities are Penticton, West Vancouver, North Cowichan, Courtenay, and Vernon, which all have a share of seniors of over 40%. Port Moody, Surrey, Port Coquitlam, and Prince George have a considerably smaller share of seniors, around 25%. Vancouver comes in sixth, with 28% of its population over the age of 55. In general, home prices are inversely related to age. Cities that have higher proportions of people over age 55 tend to have lower house prices. For example, the five most expensive cities in the Greater Vancouver Area all boast some of the lowest shares of seniors. One notable exception is West Vancouver, where the share of people over


55 is second highest, but homes also routinely sell for prices that would make your head spin. However, BC’s youngest cities are getting old the fastest. Port Coquitlam and Port Moody, two of the youngest cities, have seen the biggest jumps in the number of seniors: 46% and 39%, respectively.

Ontario ages fast, has second-most expensive home prices

The Prairies is the youngest region, has second lowest home prices Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba represent Canada’s youngest provinces. No city has a share of seniors higher than 35% (Moose Jaw, AB is the “oldest” city, with 33% seniors), and the youngest city, Wood Buffalo, AB has a share of seniors of only 12%. Airdrie and Grande Prairie, both in Alberta, have the second- and third-lowest shares of seniors, under 20%. Of the three capitals, Edmonton has the lowest share of seniors (24%), making it the “youngest” capital. Regina comes second, with a slightly higher share of seniors (26%), meaning Winnipeg (28% people over 55) is the “oldest” capital. Home prices are inversely related to age in the Prairies as well: in most cases, the higher the share of people over 55, the lower the average home price. One exception is Calgary. Home prices are the highest in the region, although almost a quarter of Calgary’s population consists of seniors. As was the case in BC, the younger cities see the biggest spikes in senior population: Okotoks, AB has seen a 59% increase, and Wood Buffalo, AB, the city with the lowest share of people over 55, saw its number of seniors increase 41%.  

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Cities in the Greater Toronto Area boast the lowest shares of people over 55. With only 18% seniors in 2016, Milton is the “youngest” city in Ontario, followed by Brampton (22%) and Ajax (23%). The cities with the highest share of people over age 55 are Kawartha Lakes (43%), Brockville (42%), and Owen Sound (40%). Toronto and Ottawa’s share of people over 55 is just under 30%. The average home price drops as the share of seniors increases. Again, relatively “young” cities are aging the fastest, with the biggest increases in share of seniors seen in Brantford (61%), Aurora (52%), and Clarence-Rockland and Pickering (both 44%). The most significant exception seems to be Milton: it is the “youngest” big city in Ontario, but its share of seniors decreased by 3%.   


In Quebec, Blainville sees the highest spike in seniors Shawinigan, Sorel-Tracy, and Thetford-Mines have the largest shares of seniors, with 46% or 47%; Cote-Saint-Luc, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Rimouski, and Joliette also have a significant percentage of people over age 55 (40% of the population is over 55). Two of the “youngest” cities boast very low shares of seniors: Mirabel’s population over 55 only reached 21% in 2016, while Blainville reached 23%. Two other cities with a small share of seniors are Terrebonne and Vaudreuil-Dorion (25%).

Just as in the rest of Canada, home prices decrease as the share of seniors goes up: Cape Breton, NS has the highest share of people over 55 and the lowest average home prices, while Halifax, NS and St. John’s, NL are the “youngest” cities, but home prices are the highest in the region. The increase in the number of seniors is also less dramatic, with the biggest spike in Cape Breton (28%). However, between 2006 and 2016, Cape Breton’s population decreased by 8%, and the 28% jump in people over age 55 shows that the national trend toward rapid aging did not bypass the region.

With a few exceptions, Quebec tends to follow the same patterns when it comes to the correlation between the share of people over 55 and home prices in the area: the higher the share of seniors, the lower the average home price. The most outstanding exception is Cote-Saint-Luc, a smaller city in the Greater Montreal Area. At 40%, the share of seniors is rather high, but this is the only city to see a decrease since 2006. Also, Cote-SaintLuc has the highest average home price in the province: $484,361.  

Conclusion As Canadian Boomers are retiring and seniors are weighing their options, the real estate decisions they make will have a great impact on the housing market. Whether it’s downsizing, investing in real estate, renting, or helping their Millennial children get a foot on the ladder, Boomers and seniors will continue to play a significant role in the evolution of the housing market.

Methodology The Atlantic Region has lowestpriced homes, and ages more slowly The Atlantic Region shows less variation in cities’ population age structures and in house prices than is seen in other provinces. The lowest share of people over 55 is in Halifax, NS, tying with St. John’s, NL (30%). Cape Breton, NS boasts the highest share of seniors in the region (42%).  

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For this study, we analyzed Statistics Canada and Environics demographics data, such as changes in total population, as well as changes in the share of seniors (people aged 55 and over) in the decade between 2006 and 2016, in the 150 biggest cities in Canada. We also looked at home price data (February 2019) to establish a correlation between the share of seniors and home prices in Canada’s largest cities. By Andra Hopulele, Point2Homes

Profile for Juan  Malvestitti

RHB Magazine Jul/Aug 2019 - Reshaping the housing market: Seniors opt for the big city  

RHB, RHB Magazine, Reshaping the housing market, Seniors opt for the big city

RHB Magazine Jul/Aug 2019 - Reshaping the housing market: Seniors opt for the big city  

RHB, RHB Magazine, Reshaping the housing market, Seniors opt for the big city

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