Housing Affordability in Canada: 2021 RE/MAX Report

Housing Affordability in Canada: 2021 RE/MAX Report

One in three Canadians considering “workarounds” to buy a home amidst declining housing affordability in Canada, supply shortages

  • Of those Canadians who are considering alternative ways to become homeowners, 54% are Millennials and Gen Z

  • 15% of Canadians reported they were able to grow their savings during the pandemic and plan to use these funds as a down payment on a home in the next six to 12 months

  • Winnipeg and Regina continue to be two of the more affordable markets in Canada year-over-year, with an average selling price below $350,000

  • St. John’s tops the list of most affordable cities in 2021, with an average selling price at $307,619

  • 45% of Canadians agree that a national housing strategy would improve their ability to own a home

In a new report exploring housing affordability in Canada in 2021, RE/MAX found that one in three (33%) Canadian homebuyers is exploring alternative options to help them get a foot into the housing market. These include renting out a portion of a primary residence (21%), pooling finances with friends or family to purchase a home (13%) and living with like-minded neighbours in a co-op/shared living arrangement (7%).

According to a Leger survey commissioned by RE/MAX, 42% of Canadians said the high price of real estate was a barrier to entry into the market. This is up just 4% over last year – surprising, given the consistent price growth experienced by housing markets from coast to coast over the past year. Among prospective homebuyers, millennials and Gen Z are most likely to consider alternative regions and communities, and/or financing options to keep affordability in play.

Key barriers impacting personal housing affordability in Canada, according to consumers:

  • a shortfall in salary (26%)

  • the fear of rising interest rates (18%)

  • the fear of being “house poor” (18%)

  • lack of steady full-time employment (16%)

  • current levels of household debt (11%)

  • the mortgage stress test (11%)

Regional Housing Affordability in Canada

Canada’s two largest cities, Toronto and Vancouver, have struggled with significant housing affordability challenges, mainly due to low supply and high demand spurred on by low interest rates. Unsurprisingly, both cities have remained at the bottom of the list year-over-year when it comes to housing affordability in Canada. At the other end of the spectrum, St. John’s, NL has replaced Regina, SK as the most affordable Canadian city to buy a home in 2021.

Calgary Housing Affordability Trends

Calgary ‘s most popular type of property for first-time homebuyers in 2021 has been single-detached homes, which has not shifted year-over-year. Typically, buyers in Calgary are willing to push their budgets modestly to attain the home they desire.

When it comes to factors that are influencing affordability in the region, changing interest rates and employment/economic conditions and likely to have a positive impact. On the flip side, tightened lending rules, low or diminishing housing supply, continued interest in larger homes putting pressure on supply; and demand from out-of-province/out-of-region buyers are believed to negatively impact affordability in the area.

The three most affordable neighbourhoods in Calgary are North East Calgary, South East Calgary, and regionally in the province of Alberta, Airdrie, Cochrane and Strathmore. The least affordable neighbourhoods in Calgary are Britannia, Bel-Aire and Upper Mount Royal.

An alternative to individual homeownership that has become relevant in Calgary since the start of 2021 is using a portion of a principal residence as an income property, to supplement monthly mortgage payments and offset bills.

Calgary is a lot more affordable when compared to other major cities in Canada, and it has been in a prolonged weak economy since 2015 which affects the housing market. Some pockets of Calgary are still seeing multiple-offer scenarios, but the trend is price- and location-specific. Overall, Calgary has seen a slowdown in activity and price increases recently. Prices are already cooling this summer, which is normal and is expected to continue due to tighter mortgage regulations. Current average sale prices range from $266,868 to $588,541, depending on the property type.

Most Affordable Neighbourhoods to Buy a Home

Short of exploring alternative solutions to find and achieve housing affordability in Canada, those who are willing to expand their boundaries can still find “hidden gem” neighbourhoods with homes at below-average prices. In a wider survey, RE/MAX Canada brokers and agents were asked to identify the most affordable neighbourhoods in the communities they serve. From approximately 300 survey submissions received between June 16 – 30,2021, some of the most affordable neighbourhoods topping the list include:

  • Washington Park, Regina, Saskatchewan

  • New Waterford, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

  • West Flat, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

  • Bayview, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

  • Portage La Prairie, Central Plains, Manitoba

Meanwhile, in what are traditionally considered Canada’s most expensive cities to buy a home, this same survey also identified “relatively affordable” neighbourhoods where homes can be purchased at prices below the city-wide average. Some of these neighbourhoods include:

  • New Westminster in Greater Vancouver, BC

  • Penbrooke, Rundle and Dover in Calgary, Alberta

  • Regent Park in Toronto, Ontario

  • North End Hamilton, Ontario

  • Hawthorne, Carlton Place and Vanier in Ottawa, Ontario

The Interest Rate Effect

The record-low interest rates that first appeared in 2020 have been a “double-edged sword,” presenting an exceptional opportunity for Canadians to get into or move up in the housing market, but also adding fuel to an already hot sector. Yet, with inflationary pressures starting to emerge, interest rates could rise soon, putting pressure on over-leveraged homeowners and slowing consumer demand.

Based on broker insights and external data, as seen within the accompanying RE/MAX Housing Affordability Index, the average monthly mortgage amount across Canada ranges from approximately $950 to $4,268, depending on regional income levels, and a 20-per-cent down payment, amounting to an average percentage of Canadians’ monthly income from 11% to upwards of 50%. This is currently consistent with the majority of Canadians (72%) who feel comfortable allocating less than 50% of their household income toward housing costs, including mortgage payments.

However, concern over declining housing affordability in Canada and specifically the ability to afford a home in the next two years due to rising prices remains, with nearly half (48%) of Canadians sharing this sentiment. This concern significantly rises for younger Canadians (aged 18 – 34), with 71% expressing concern. Unsurprisingly, over half (60%) of this group agrees that a national housing strategy would cool the market and improve affordability.

Buyer Incentives and Future Affordability Considerations

Amidst market challenges, the continued push behind the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI) has provided Canadians with an effective way to access a suitable down payment. Of those who recently bought their first home, 35% took advantage of the FTHBI; however, of those who did not, 31% were unaware of the incentive.

Incentives and regulations put in place to curb or create demand, while advantageous for some, do not address some of the other challenges currently at play that are impacting housing affordability in Canada.

Additional Report Highlights

In an analysis of housing affordability in Canada, the RE/MAX 2021 Housing Affordability Report finds that:

St. John’s, Regina, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Ottawa, Calgary and Windsor rank as the top affordable regions (see index), based on average sale price, monthly household income, and percentage allocated towards a mortgage

Those who have been able to afford homeownership (56% of Canadians) are significantly more likely to be aged 35+ (64%), live in a rural (70%) or suburban (60%) area, and earn $80k+ per year (74%).

Of those who are not able to afford home ownership (41% of Canadians), they are significantly more likely to be aged 18-34 (60%), live in an urban area (48%), and make less than $40k per year (70%).

When it comes to finding ways to own a home, Gen Z and Millennials claim that:

- 54% would consider buying a home in a different neighbourhood or region, just to be able to enter the housing market.
- 53% are only able to own a home with the help of their parents or other family members.
- 20% claim that owning a home has meant that they’ve had to move to another city within their province given affordability challenges.
- 17% have moved or purchased a home in entirely new provinces because it was more affordable than their previous place of residence.
- Canadians in Western Canada are more likely to want to get creative in their home-buying efforts (39%), as compared to Ontario and Atlantic Canadians (33%).

About the RE/MAX 2021 Housing Affordability Report

The RE/MAX 2021 Housing Affordability Report includes data and insights from RE/MAX brokerages. RE/MAX brokers and agents are surveyed on market activity and local developments. Average sale price is reflective of all property types in a region and varies depending on the region.

About Leger

Leger is the largest Canadian-owned full-service market research firm. An online survey of 1,539 Canadians was completed between June 4-6, 2021, using Leger’s online panel. Leger’s online panel has approximately 400,000 members nationally and has a retention rate of 90 percent. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2.51 percent, 19 times out of 20.

Housing Affordability Index - click here

Canada’s most affordable neighbourhoods - click here

Courtesy RE/MAX Canada

Data is supplied by Pillar 9™ MLS® System. Pillar 9™ is the owner of the copyright in its MLS®System. Data is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by Pillar 9™.
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