Canada’s 2011 census saw the population tick in at just under 33.5 million, a 6% increase from the 2006 census of 31.6 million. By 2016, the national population had risen to over 35 million people, and Statscan estimates that over 38 million live in Canada as of this year. In just a decade, over 4.5 million more people live in this country, and that has placed huge pressures on housing, employment, and our environment. That’s the net equivalent of adding the population of Toronto, Mississauga, and Brampton to the country. Long term estimates project 46.5 million people living in this country in 20 years. Immigration will continue to increase throughout the 21st century. The bulk of immigrants settle in three regions, already plagued with serious housing supply issues (the GTA, Greater Vancouver, and the Greater Montreal area).
How will we house the many millions that have arrived and that have ambitious housing aspirations, let alone the millions more that are coming? Experts are calling for ambitious, broad public policy measures. The dependence on urban sprawl, and building vast suburban lots of detached housing can’t continue forever. Accessible land is in short supply, and is extremely expensive. Canadian society is far too decentralized, individualistic, and suburban to fully embrace the kind of densification that has been the norm in many societies around the world where populations are large and where land is limited – Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Manhattan. Experts, however, believe that intensification, redevelopment, and densification are the only ways enough ‘affordable’ housing stock can be brought onto the market to meet growing demand.
If immigration continues to surge, and the Trudeau Government is banking on it to, a detached home will become a luxury with average prices hitting well over $1 million in more and more parts of the country. While Canada is an enormous country, only 4% of its surface area is arable, and 90% of the rapidly growing population lives within a very narrow belt of this land adjacent to the U.S. border. It is estimated that every day, Ontario loses 175 acres of land to development. Population density in southern Ontario is rapidly increasing, and some believe that unless densification proceeds effectively and rapidly, we will have to build homes on protected and designated land to meet demand and consumer choices.