Renting is growing twice as fast as home ownership, census reveals

The number of households who rent their homes has grown twice as fast as the number of those who own, newly released census data has revealed.

10 million households own their home, while 5 million rent. But the gap is narrowing.

About one-third of Canadian households rent their residence, according to newly released census data, but that percentage is growing. (David Horemans/CBC)

The number of households who rent their homes has grown twice as fast as the number of those who own, census data has revealed.

Statistics Canada revealed Wednesday that the number of households who rent their homes grew by more than 21 per cent between 2011 and 2021. By contrast, the number of households that own their homes grew by just eight per cent over the same period.

Although the gap is narrowing, owners still outnumber those who rent by a significant margin. More than 10 million households owned their home last year — about twice as many as the five million who rent.

All in all, Canadians were less likely to own their own home than they were in 2011.

The shift away from home ownership is especially pronounced among the generation that is typically most likely to want to buy: young adults.

In 2011, about 44 per cent of those in the age 25-29 cohort owned their home. By 2021, that percentage had fallen to 36.5 per cent.

The drop-off for those in the next age group was almost as pronounced: from 59.2 per cent for those between the ages of 30 and 34, to 52.3 per cent.

Young professionals squeezed

Kirsten Lynne is among the growing cohort of young professionals feeling squeezed by housing affordability. She moved to Yellowknife in the summer of 2019, and despite making a six-figure salary, she says she has been shocked by how unaffordable the housing options are.

She was renting a one-bedroom apartment for $1,800 a month, but that was before her landlord moved to upgrade the apartment and charge more — a phenomenon known as "renoviction."

She contemplated buying a condo, but "the options to purchase in the Yellowknife market are bleak for a single income person like myself," she told CBC News. So she's currently renting a two-bedroom apartment for about $2,000 a month.

"Your dollar just doesn't get you much here."

Lynne is 36, and her choice to rent versus owning is symbolic of her generation. The census data shows a clear demographic gap between those who own and those who rent, with baby boomers — which the data agency defines as anyone 56 to 75 years old in 2021 — making up 41.3 per cent of all homeowners in Canada.

Meanwhile millennials — between 25 and 40 years old in 2021 — made up 32.6 per cent of all renters.

While both owning and renting come with a cost, those who own their home have been lucky enough to offset those costs by way of a significant increase in the value of their homes. That isn't the case for anyone who rents.

Worse still for renters, the average cost of keeping a roof over their head has increased by more than what those who own have experienced. The average cost for shelter among renters grew by 17.6 per cent in the past five years, from $910 a month, on average, in 2016, to $1,070 in 2021.

That's roughly twice as large as the 9.7 per cent increase borne by owners, whose average monthly cost went from $1,130 in 2016, to $1,240 last year.

Those costs do not simply include rent and mortgage costs, but they also incorporate things like maintenance and utilities.


Pete Evans

Senior Business Writer

Pete Evans is the senior business writer for Prior to coming to the CBC, his work has appeared in the Globe & Mail, the Financial Post, the Toronto Star, and Canadian Business Magazine. Twitter: @p_evans Email: