Photo: James Bombales

A recent report from Central 1 Credit Union zeroes in on a trend that may raise some eyebrows: data suggests BC residents are leaving their home province to come to Ontario for affordable homes.

While Ontario has some of the country’s least affordable housing markets, the idea isn’t so far-fetched. While the Greater Toronto Area, where roughly a third of the province’s residents live, routinely makes headlines for expensive housing, it’s still a relatively cheaper option for Vancouverites, a Central 1 economist notes.

“The affordability in BC, it is forcing some people unfortunately to look for other places to settle, and believe it or not, they’re still coming to Toronto,” Edgard Navarrete, Central 1’s Ontario regional economist, tells Livabl.

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In fact, according to RBC’s latest housing report, affording an average home in the Vancouver area would require 84.7 percent of a typical household’s income, versus 66.1 percent in the Toronto area.

Ontario’s strong economy has attracted Canadians from other provinces in recent years, Navarrete notes. In a separate Ontario forecast, the economist predicts the province’s population will grow by 1.8 percent this year in no small part due to interprovincial migration.

In terms of who’s coming, Navarette says students, professionals and empty-nesters are demographic components. Students from Vancouver may look to London or Northern Ontario, for example. “That’s going to be driving some of the housing demand in those markets,” says Navarrete.

Meantime, professionals might be drawn to the tech centres of Toronto, Ottawa–Gataneau or Kitchener–Waterloo. The former two also have appeal for those in the financial industry.

“When you look at BC right, the economy, there’s not enough people to fill the jobs, particularly in some of the white-collar jobs there, but what’s happening is, affordability makes people think twice about moving to Vancouver,” says Navarrete.

“There’s still opportunity here [in Ontario], and that’s what’s driving some of that movement,” he adds.

Empty-nester migration to Ontario, and specifically Toronto, is a more recent trend Navarette has heard about anecdotally. “Usually empty nesters, they move from the east to the west,” the Central 1 economist explains. “They want to go for the weather and all that, they want to be an Alberta or they want to be in BC.”

The tide is changing, though. Navarette suggests some are using windfalls from home sales to relocate to Ontario, using the profit leftover after purchasing a more-affordable home as a retirement nest egg.

However, it’s younger people who account for most of the interprovincial population inflows.

Looking ahead, Navarrete does expect this movement to slow down as Ontario’s economy cools off in the coming years. “A lot of people are going to perhaps stay where they are, or look for other urban centres to set up roots,” he adds.

In his 2019–2021 Ontario economist forecast, Navarrete projects provincial GDP growth to track between 1.5–1.7 percent, where in recent years it has exceeded 2 percent regularly.

“We’re not headed for a recession yet,” Navarrete makes clear.

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