Tents are seen at a homeless encampment at Crab Park as the downtown skyline rises behind them in Vancouver, on Sunday, August 14, 2022. Housing anxiety in British Columbia encompasses young professionals who can’t raise enough cash for down payments, students and low-income families unable to afford rent and people in tents fearful they will die homeless, says Canada’s federal housing advocate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. posts highest rate of unaffordable housing as ownership declines across Canada

Canada’s homeownership rate fell to 66.5 per cent in 2021 from its peak at 69 per cent in 2011

British Columbia is leading the country as the province with the highest rate of unaffordable homes.

Statistics Canada data published Wednesday from the 2021 census said B.C. is the most unaffordable province for housing in Canada, due largely to the number of people paying high rents to live in downtown Vancouver.

The data pegged B.C.’s unaffordability rate at 25.5 per cent, with Ontario next at 24.2 per cent.

Canada’s homeownership rate fell overall to 66.5 per cent in 2021 from its peak at 69 per cent in 2011.

StatCan said B.C. posted the third-largest homeownership decline from 2011 to 2021, to 66.8 per cent from 70 per cent, while Prince Edward Island saw the sharpest drop.

B.C. is also leading Canada in the number of renter households, with Kelowna showing an increase in renters of more than 54 per cent.

First-time buyers in B.C. are largely choosing condominiums as a “gateway to homeownership,” said the report.

“B.C. had the largest share of condo dwellers among the provinces in 2021, with 23.6 per cent of households calling a condo home,” the report said. “Almost one-third, 32.5 per cent of households in Vancouver, lived in a condo.”

It said most tenant-occupied condominiums are owned by individuals likely as investment properties.

“According to the Canadian Housing Statistics Program, over three-quarters, more than 77 per cent, of the condos in B.C. and more than two-thirds, almost 70 per cent, of those in Ontario that were not being lived in by the homeowner were owned by individual Canadian investors,” said the report.

It also showed that improvements in household incomes across Canada are reducing core housing need, but almost 1.5 million Canadians still live in conditions defined as unsuitable, inadequate or unaffordable.

Statistics Canada says the country’s home ownership rate is on the decline, with young millennials in particular less likely to own a home in 2021 than they were in 2011.

The federal agency also says newly built homes are increasingly likely to be occupied by renters, with 40.4 per cent of new homes built between 2016 and 2021 now rented out.

The share of homes that are condominiums continues to rise, with most being built in large cities.

The report says monthly costs rose faster for renters than homeowners in the latest census period.

Housing affordability actually improved in 2021, but one in five renters still spend more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter costs.

—Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Housing minister, municipal governments at odds over B.C. housing supply report

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