Single-Detached Houses Are Here to Stay in the GTA, Contrary to Media Reports and Planners’ Dreams
By: Frank Clayton and Hong Yun (Eva) Shi
September 4, 2019
I have to say I was taken aback by a recent Globe and Mail editorial which announced that ‘The era of the single-family detached home is over.’1 The editorial also labelled the single-detached house as the least efficient way to house people, which brings to mind the humongous rows of non-descript apartment blocks the Communists built in the U.S.S.R. after the Second World War. Apparently consumer preferences do not matter, only the lowest possible cost of producing housing per person housed do!
Let us look at the types of housing units being bought by first-time buyers across Canada but especially in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) - as approximated by the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area - to see if the dream of owning a single-detached house is becoming futile. If buyers are being driven away from single-detached houses due to high prices, first-time buyers would be the ones to be most affected as move-up buyers would have the proceeds from the sale of their current home to apply to the price of a bigger and better house.
Genworth Canada’s survey of first-time homebuyers2
Environics Research conducts a biennial survey on the types of homes purchased by first-time buyers for Genworth Canada. Here we are using the results from the surveys conducted during the first quarters of 2015, 2017 and 2019 respectively, which includes the responses of approximately 1,800 households who had purchased a home within the two years prior.
Note that the 2015 and 2017 survey questions separated the City of Toronto from the rest of Ontario while those in the 2019 survey separated the GTA from the rest of Ontario.
TREB’s survey of prospective homebuyers3
Over each of the past four years in November, Ipsos Reid, on behalf of the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), conducted a survey of households (on average 1,000 buyers) likely to buy a home over the next year in the GTA.4 The survey asked respondents if the home they were likely to purchase would be located in the City of Toronto or in the 905 regions, whether they were first-time buyers, and what type of housing they would most likely purchase. The data for housing types presented here pertains to all buyers, first and repeat buyers.
FINDINGS FROM THE GENWORTH SURVEY OF FIRST-TIME BUYERS
Half or nearly half of recent first-time buyers across Canada and in Ontario bought a single-detached house in the two years prior to early 2019
It is hard to foresee the demise of the single-detached house when close to half or more of first-time buyers in Ontario or across Canada as a whole bought them in the latest two year-period (see Figure 1). It is true there has been some shift away from singles for the country as a whole but it is modest – from 55% in the 2015 survey to 50% in the 2019 survey. In Ontario, the proportion of buyers buying a single-detached house remained stable at 46%-47%.
For Canada as a whole, the proportion of all millennials who owned their homes rose from 55% in the 2015 survey to 60% in the 2019 survey.