Housing Advice in the GTHA: Share, Save, Borrow

Two summers ago, we brought you insights from the 416 Research Group on the millennial homebuyers’ market in the GTA. Then we read Alex Avery’s cautionary book telling us to keep calm and continue renting.

Recently we were lucky enough to meet with Davelle Morrison, sales representative of Bolsey Real Estate Ltd. in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area (GTHA) and former Corus citizenship award winner, who shared some advice with our readers – don’t rule out home-buying or condo-buying, not even if you’re a “broke millennial,” she said. She noted the rise of single professionals with urbanization and their growing condo habit, the not so new tendency of women being the key instigators of the home-buying decision (and of “men marrying up to women who bought homes first”), and how perceived costs are more different from the real story. In fact, the perception that the suburbs are cheaper to buy in, is something Morrison challenges when revealing that it now costs the same for people to live in the city as it does in the suburbs. This, she says, is evidenced by the fact that north of Steeles Avenue many houses are not selling.

Millennials were not moving out of their parents’ basements or homes for the longest time ever (there were a million such millennials living with parents in 2016). The problem became so intense that according to a Sotheby’s 2017 Generational Trends report, 35% of boomers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) surveyed planned to give or already had given their children around $50,000 as a down payment for a home as an early inheritance. One in five young Canadian homeowners delayed saving up for retirement in order to save up for buying a home, prioritizing homeownership.

Davelle Morrison, sales representative of Bolsey Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage, offers quick tips for homebuyers in the GTHA

A healthy aging population (proven by the fact that there are now more Canadians aged 65+ than those under the age of 15 years) and immigration will drive population growth and housing demand. We are marrying less and having fewer children (1.5 child per woman) which is also going to affect home buying choices. Millennials and urban professionals in the city are attracted to the downtown and will continue to rent condos in the “core” according to Morrison.

If home-buying is still perceived as expensive, will Torontonians consider coop housing? Not quite, said Morrison, but the Golden Girl Act could potentially allow groups of senior women to co-own a housing unit together, something she thinks will gain more currency along with shared-models as or when women/seniors/others want to retire in safe, innovative and affordable housing. Just over one in five Canadians use or have used a home sharing app according to a recent poll by Maru/Blue.

The Centre for Urban Research and Land Development at Ryerson University and Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) conducted a recent 2018 housing study Millennials in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA): A Generation Stuck in Apartments?“. Their findings revealed that Ontario is home to the most educated millennials in the country – almost 80% of the Millennial labour force in the region has a postsecondary education, compared to only 68% in the rest of Canada. A lot of this could be owed to the strong correlation between urban density and centres of education, proximity to high-skilled jobs, and more immigration.

In an unconstrained market, homeownership rate for millennials in the GTHA could rise (from 40% in 2016) to 60% in 2026. Millennials might move to the suburbs and scale down, but their propensity to buy is only growing and even precarious employment will not stop them from pursuing home-ownership. According to the same study, a survey by the Toronto Real Estate Board revealed that close to half of all millennials surveyed in the GTA (42%) planned to leave the province to live in cheaper housing markets. More millennials preferred to buy ground-related housing i.e., singles, semis, townhouses with a backyard (as opposed to high-rises).

Jun Shi-Boom, Senior Sample and Feasibility Analyst at Maru/Blue, a real estate trendspotter, and soon-to-be millennial mother, agrees with the data. “Increasing immigration and employment opportunities will continue to drive up the housing demand in the long term, so the government needs to be more creative in addressing housing needs especially with lengthy permit approval periods delaying building completion times. An average condo building takes 4 to 6 years to finish,” says Shi-Boom. Finance wise, she also believes there is a lot more burden on this generation with higher taxes and costs of education, stagnant wages, rising home costs and daycare expenses, arguing that, “It makes sense for children to borrow from their boomer parents who may have accumulated significant wealth especially if they have been purchasing homes over the past three decades.”

Millennials are the fastest growing generational cohort in Toronto, 32% of their growth in the city is attributed to immigration from outside of Canada.

What does buying a home mean to you? Let us know in the comments.


  1. One thing I’m intrigued about with the focus on millennial housing (which is a pet topic for most outlets these days) is nobody seems to ask why it’s so important that people own their own property. It’s this received truth, that not buying property is like not being allowed your full human rights.
    In Europe, property ownership is much less prevalent, and somewhat less of a hot topic. Perhaps it’s the separation of wealth (and what you save) from housing and where you live.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! The RBC has come up with a more recent (June 2019) housing report as well that pointed out housing affordability (except for in the 3 big cities) was up. But it’s interesting you point out how home ownership in Europe is less popular particularly in markets like Germany where rent rise is the slowest and renting appears to be the most cost-effective way to live even long term, since the post-war years. Ireland and Spain are probably seen as exceptions in that sense with high homeownership rates comparable to US – where homeownership remains a primary driver of wealth.

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