Building Magazine


National household survey shows rising income but flat home ownership rates

The final release of data from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) shows rising fortunes for many Canadians. According to the 2011 NHS, median family income in 2010 reached $76,500—up 5.5 per cent from 2005 (though comparisons to 2005 data are only approximate). Although other data sources suggest much of the gain occurred before the 2008 recession, more than a third of all families reported incomes above $100,000, while 12 per cent had incomes under $30,000. And the data show that the families with the highest median incomes—between $90,000 and $100,000—are found in major metropolitan areas such as Calgary, Ottawa-Gatineau, Edmonton and Regina.

The NHS findings show the wage gap between younger men and women is lower than for the older population. Although the median employment income for all men working full time for a full year, $53,000, is 26 per cent more than the $42,200 that women earn, that gap is 20 per cent for younger workers between 25 and 34 years old. “Women still earn less than men, but the gap is shrinking as women experience gains in education and higher paying professions,” says Dr. Doug Norris, senior vice president and chief demographer at Environics Analytics. “Women have been the big winners in terms of income.”

The new data, the third and final in a series of NHS releases from Statistics Canada that began last May, focused on questions about income and housing, including shelter costs. In 2011, 69 per cent of Canada’s 13.3 million households owned their dwelling, which is roughly unchanged from the 68.4 per cent who owned their home in 2006. Nationally, Canadians pay an average monthly shelter cost of $1,050—$1,585 a month for owners with a mortgage, $511 for owners without a mortgage and $848 for those who rent. With housing costs an important part of overall expenditures, fully one-quarter of Canada’s 13.1 million households spend 30 per cent or more of their income on shelter, exceeding the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s “affordability threshold.”

The new NHS data also show the increasing popularity of condo living. In 2011, more than 1.6 million households lived in condominiums—just over 12 per cent of all households. The increasing popularity of condos is reflected in the fact that fewer than 5 per cent of all dwellings constructed before 1971 were condos compared to 28 per cent of all dwellings constructed between 2006 and 2011. “The rise in condominium ownership can be attributed to younger people who can’t afford the cost of single-family homes and retiring Boomers looking to downsize their lifestyles,” says Norris. Condos are especially popular in big cities, particularly Vancouver (where 31 per cent live in a condo), Abbotsford-Mission (24 per cent), and Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton (each 20 per cent).

This release of data from the NHS completes the initial release of all information from the 2011 Census program that includes the Census itself as well as the National Household Survey. Overall, the new data showed Canada continuing to increase in population size, diversity and education—with younger women leading the way in pursuing college, university and post-graduate degrees. In the years ahead, Canada’s population is likely to continue to increase, and the fastest growing segment will be people in their older ages as the large Boomer cohort moves into their sixties, seventies and eighties. “Clearly this large cohort is different than today’s seniors,” says Norris, “and businesses and other organizations in society will need to adjust their focus in order to meet their needs. In addition, an equally large cohort of Millennials will be moving into their forties and fifties, no doubt with values and aspirations that differ from the Boomers.”

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