Densification policies are only pushing more buyers outward

Despite increasing condo supply, Canadians will continue pursuing their single-detached housing dreams

Densification policies are only pushing more buyers outward

Densification efforts in Canada’s largest cities are having just the opposite effect, with Canadian millennials increasingly preferring life in single-detached residences, according to Konrad Yakabuski, politics and business columnist for The Globe and Mail.

“More Canadians than ever are driving to work, proof that efforts to promote mass transit and densification have not succeeded in killing the dream of a house in the suburbs,” Yakabuski wrote, citing StatsCan data that showed an 80% share of the population commuting to work by car (either as drivers or passengers) in 2016.

“What this indicates, more than anything, is that policy-makers seem to have systematically underestimated how much ordinary people are willing to sacrifice for the space of a detached single-family house, preferably with a big yard for their kids, while having a little left over to spend on travel or to sock away in a retirement savings account.”

Indeed, the current policy focus on making more condo supply available in downtown areas “may have unwittingly encouraged urban sprawl by forcing more Canadians to look further to the exurbs to realize their dream of a owning a detached, single-family home with a yard.”

Case in pont: Greater Montreal, which saw its off-island communities magnetize more young households. Latest data from the Quebec statistics agency indicated that Montreal lost nearly 24,000 residents to the city’s suburbs and exurbs in 2018, making this the largest decline since 2010.

Read more: Commentary: Affordability will not improve just because of supply

“Attempts by urban planners and policy-makers to condition Canadians into accepting condo living as a permanent state in life have not stopped millennials from dreaming the suburban dream,” Yakabuski said. “After all, Mr. Moreau, that 500-square-foot box in the sky gets tired after a while.”

“Extending the amortization period on insured mortgages, easing the stress test introduced last year or increasing the $750 tax credit for first-time buyers might encourage more millennials to purchase a condo, the only type of property within financial reach. But since most millennials ultimately aspire to purchase of a single-family home, it’s worthwhile asking whether Canada needs any more condos right now.”