84% of Canadians Feel Housing Affordability is a Major Issue: National Survey


As the federal election draws nearer, one topic has been at the forefront of nearly every major party’s platform: housing affordability across the nation. Whether or not Canadians can feasibly purchase real estate in their local markets, qualify for a mortgage, or secure an affordable rental have long been hot button topics for policymakers – and a recent survey conducted by Zoocasa reveals they remain urgently top-of-mind for homeowners, prospective buyers, and tenants.

To gauge Canadian sentiment on today’s top housing issues, Zoocasa polled over 1,300 Canadians between September 17 to 29, 2019, on the following sentiments:

  • Eroding home affordability
  • How rising home prices have impacted homeowners
  • Financial stress and housing prices
  • Most common obstacles to homeownership
  • Housing as a priority in the upcoming election

Owning a Home Still Considered Important – Despite the Challenges

According to the findings, respondents feel very strongly indeed that the cost of housing is a problem that has come to the forefront – a whopping 84% agree with the sentiment that housing affordability is a major issue that’s negatively impacting Canadians. It’s also on the tip of their tongues; 72% of respondents said they had a conversation with a friend, family, member, or colleague about housing or the real estate market within the last week. 

However, despite these noted challenges, homeownership remains an important, and coveted life milestone that many feel should be achievable in early adulthood: 31% of respondents believe people should own a home or property by the time they are between 31 – 35 years old, while 29% feel this goal should be accomplished as early as 26 – 30 years old.

The Rising Cost of Home Ownership

A key issue behind home unaffordability is that housing prices, especially in the nation’s largest urban centres, have increased rapidly over the last decade, well outpacing the rate of inflation and local wage growth. For example, the average price of Toronto homes for sale hit $843,115 in September 2019; well out of reach for a household earning the median income of $78,373 in the region

This is keenly felt among respondents, with 91% saying they felt the cost of buying a home in their city or town has been rising faster than their incomes, and 92% feeling rising home prices have made it hard for middle-class Canadians to buy their first home.

This has fueled the “drive until you qualify” approach, as 52% of all first-time buyers saying they’d consider moving to another town or city in order to be able to afford a home.

How Have Rising Real Estate Costs Impacted Homeowners?

While rising home prices have made it challenging for middle-class Canadians to break into the housing market, there is a group who has generally benefitted from their stratospheric rise – those who already own their homes. A total of 69% of respondents who identify as homeowners agree that owning a home has been effective in helping them build wealth.

However, the responses reveal a high level of anxiety still persists among this group. A total of 54% of these respondents say their housing costs have increased faster than their income since they purchased their home. 

Perhaps more telling is that more than half feel that they greatly benefitted from the timing of their purchase – 66% said they felt they may not be able to afford the home they currently live in if they had to buy it in today’s market conditions.

Housing and Financial Stress

The high cost of housing has an impact on Canadians beyond their wallets – the resulting financial stress has affected their mental health, especially among renters. A total of 76% of those who identified as such said rising home costs have negatively impacted their mental health at least once, compared to 50% of homeowners. 

However, all groups of respondents appear to be stressed by their finances to a large extent: 79% said they were their biggest source of stress at least once over the last 12 months, with 75% of homeowners and 86% of renters in agreement.

Obstacles to Homeownership

While rising real estate prices were cited as the leading obstacle to purchasing a home (according to 70% of first-time buyers), they’re only part of the equation; earning enough income (64%) and saving for a down payment (58%) are also top hurdles to achieving homeownership.

Housing and the Federal Election

Overall, Canadians want to see housing issues take centre stage among the highest levels of government, with 78% indicating it’s important the next federal government elected makes it a priority. While renters feel the strongest, with nearly all – 90% – in agreement, a total of 72% of homeowners also expressed this is a top concern. 

Methodology

The findings are based on an online survey conducted by Zoocasa Realty from Sep 17, 2019 to Sep 29, 2019 of 1,307 respondents in Canada. A margin of error cannot be assigned because it is an online survey, however, the margin of error for a comparable sample of the same size is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

About Zoocasa

Zoocasa is a full-service brokerage that offers advanced online search tools to empower Canadians with the data and expertise they need to make more successful real estate decisions. View real estate listings at zoocasa.com or download our free iOS app.

For more information about this report or to set up a media interview, please email [email protected]

All Survey Statistics at a Glance

General 

  • 37% of respondents had a conversation with a friend, family member or colleague about housing or the real estate market in the last 24 hours
  • 72% of respondents had a conversation with a friend, family member or colleague about housing or the real estate market within the last week
  • 31% of respondents feel that people should own a home or property by the time they are between 31 – 35 years old
  • 29% of respondents feel that people should own a home or property by the time they are between 26 -30 years old
  • 22% feel that there is no particular age by which someone should own a home or property

The Rising Cost of Home Ownership

  • The cost of buying a home in my town or city has been rising faster than incomes
    • All respondents
      • Agree: 91%
      • Disagree: 2%
      • Neutral: 7%
    • Millennials 
      • Agree: 92% 
      • Disagree: 2%
      • Neutral: 6%
  • Rising home prices have made it hard for middle-class Canadians to buy their first home
    • All respondents
      • Agree: 92%
      • Disagree: 2%
      • Neutral: 6%
    • Millennials 
      • Agree: 94%
      • Disagree: 2%
      • Neutral: 5%
  • Property ownership is the top socio-economic class divider today
    • All respondents
      • Agree: 65%
      • Disagree: 9%
      • Neutral: 26%
    • Millennials 
      • Agree: 67%
      • Disagree: 10%
      • Neutral: 24%

Homeowners on Rising Housing Costs

  • Owning a home has been effective in helping me build wealth
    • All homeowners
      • Agree: 69%
      • Disagree: 9%
      • Neutral: 22% 
  • My housing costs (mortgage, property taxes, heating, insurance, etc.) have increased faster than my income since I purchased my home
    • All homeowners
      • Agree: 54%
      • Disagree: 21%
      • Neutral: 26%
  • If you had to buy the home you currently live in, today, would you be able to afford it?
    • All homeowners
      • Yes: 34%
      • No or Not Sure: 66%

Financial Stress & Housing 

  • I felt my finances were my biggest source of stress
    • All respondents
      • At least once or more: 79%
      • Never: 21%
    • Homeowners
      • At least once or more: 75%
      • Never: 25%
    • Renters
      • At least once or more: 86%
      • Never: 14%
    • Millennials
      • At least once or more: 80%
      • Never: 20%
  • Dealing with rising housing costs negatively impacted my mental health
    • All respondents
      • At least once or more: 59%
      • Never: 42%
    • Homeowners
      • At least once or more: 50%
      • Never: 50%
    • Renters
      • At least once or more: 76%
      • Never: 24%
    • Millennials
      • At least once or more: 67%
      • Never: 33%

Obstacles to First-Time Homeownership

  • Three biggest obstacles to buying a property 
    • All first-time buyers:
      • 70% say rising real estate prices
      • 64% say earning enough income
      • 58% say saving for a down payment
    • First-time buyers who are Millennials: 
      • 75% say rising real estate prices
      • 65% say earning enough income
      • 60% say saving for a down payment
  • Three biggest challenges related to saving for a home down payment
    • All first-time buyers:
      • 68% say their income isn’t high enough
      • 40% say they need more time to save
      • 39% say their rent costs are too high
    • First-time buyers who are Millennials:
      • 69% say their income isn’t high enough
      • 46% say they need more time to save
      • 44% say their rent costs are too high
  • I would consider moving to another town/city to be able to afford a home
    • All first-time buyers:
      • Agree: 52%
      • Disagree: 24%
      • Neutral: 24%

Federal Election & Housing 

  • Housing affordability is a major issue that’s negatively impacting Canadians
    • All respondents
      • Agree: 84%
      • Disagree: 3%
      • Neutral: 13%
    • Homeowners
      • Agree: 80%
      • Disagree: 4%
      • Neutral: 16%
    • Renters
      • Agree: 93%
      • Disagree: 1%
      • Neutral: 6%
    • Millennials 
      • Agree: 87%
      • Disagree: 1%
      • Neutral: 12%
  • It’s important the federal government we elect makes improving housing affordability a priority
    • All respondents
      • Agree: 78%
      • Disagree: 7%
      • Neutral: 15%
    • Homeowners
      • Agree: 72%
      • Disagree: 10%
      • Neutral: 18%
    • Renters
      • Agree: 90%
      • Disagree: 2%
      • Neutral: 8%
    • Millennials 
      • Agree: 80%
      • Disagree: 7%
      • Neutral: 14%


About Penelope Graham

Penelope Graham is the Managing Editor at Zoocasa, and has over a decade of experience covering real estate, mortgage, and personal finance topics. Her commentary on the housing market is frequently featured on both national and local media outlets including BNN Bloomberg, CBC, The Toronto Star, National Post, and The Huffington Post. When not keeping an eye on Toronto's hot housing market, she can be found brunching in one of the city's many vibrant neighbourhoods, travelling abroad, or in the dance studio.