The End of Homeownership

For generations, middle-class Canadians have been sold on the promise of homeownership. The promise was always flawed. Today it’s simply broken.
by michelle cyca

June 15, 2023

I was born in Vancouver in 1987, and I’ve lived here nearly all my life. Anyone of my generation who grew up in this city spent their youth hearing constantly about the twin dangers that imperilled our future: a city-annihilating earthquake, and the always-rising cost of housing. Either might one day make living here impossible. Both felt vast and inevitable, forces beyond our control. So we carried on in the face of disaster, doing our best to ignore it.

In 1992, the year I did my first earthquake drill in kindergarten, Vancouver overtook Toronto as the most expensive housing market in the country. After finishing an undergraduate degree in Victoria, I returned in 2009 and spent my 20s moving from one rental to another—seven apartments, six neighbourhoods and five roommates in all. Fourteen years ago, it was still possible to find an apartment for $650 or $700 a month, especially if you were willing, as I was, to tolerate a gas leak, a creepy landlord or a solarium repurposed as a bedroom in exchange for below-market rent.

A few of my friends even made the leap into ownership in their 20s, almost always with the help of family. In the early 2010s, you could get a small one-bedroom or a studio apartment for $300,000 or so. That was a significant downgrade from my parents’ generation, for whom an equivalent inflation-adjusted sum would have bought a single-family home nearly anywhere in the city. But it was a foothold on the property ladder, and I believed then that it would be possible for all of us to do the same, to make our homes in this city we loved. We would, somehow, follow the upward trajectory of previous generations, whose rising incomes allowed them to graduate to homeownership in due course.

Besides, the market had to correct eventually, right? How could it not, as the chasm between incomes and cost of living kept growing? In 2012, when the benchmark property price in metro Vancouver was $638,000, Yale University economics professor and housing analyst Robert Shiller predicted a crash: “Just because it’s a nice place to live doesn’t mean prices are going to go up forever,” he said.

But they haven’t stopped climbing yet. The benchmark property now costs $1.2 million, propelled upward year after year by low interest rates, constrained supply, investor speculation and a growing population. And year after year, I’ve watched as more friends have left Vancouver for smaller towns, or Alberta, where they could afford a dog, a yard, a baby.

In retrospect, they were lucky to have left when there was still somewhere else to go. While an impending big earthquake remains a localized source of dread, the fear and anxiety surrounding housing has exploded into a national phenomenon. The benchmark property price across Canada more than doubled between 2015 and 2022, from $409,000 to $861,000. In the same period, average wages increased only 23 per cent, not accounting for inflation.

Cities large and small, from Victoria to Toronto to Windsor to Moncton, are now grappling with the same intractable problems. There is too little housing, far too little affordable housing and far too many investors bidding houses up and out of reach, creating a rapidly widening divide between Canada’s housing haves and have-nots. Those fortunate enough to already own property have watched their net worth soar along with the value of their homes, even as millions of others have been shut out. In 1986, a young adult working full time could expect to save for a down payment in five years. Now, they’d have to save for 17 years—nearly 30 in Vancouver or Toronto.

For decades, Canadian society has positioned homeownership as a promise, a sure path to security and prosperity. As it slips out of reach, young Canadians are struggling to build community, start families and plan for the future. At this scale, the problem doesn’t resemble an earthquake so much as a more human-caused catastrophe. Like climate change, it’s the result of policy choices and behaviours that have tipped the scales toward disaster for decades.

The result is a pervasive sense of what I’ve come to think of as housing nihilism, especially among those under 40—millennials and Gen Z—who are most affected. In conversations with thwarted would-be homeowners across the country while writing this story, I heard the same feelings reiterated time after time. There was anger at the ever-growing unattainability of homeownership, at the loss of the stability it represents and of an inheritance for the next generation. There was resentment at being relegated to indefinite renting in a cutthroat market controlled by an increasingly exclusive cohort of the housing haves. And there was despair at their straitjacketed circumstances—because the rental market has gone just as haywire, and many can’t afford to move. If they do, they’ll be forced to leave their cities altogether, and their careers, friends and families.

We talk about the housing crisis all the time—in headlines, on playgrounds, at dinner parties, on social media. We talk about how our government should fix it: radical rezoning, more supply, more public housing, taxes on speculation and foreign owners and empty houses. There are lots of solutions, but none are silver bullets. All will take years or decades to make a difference. In the meantime, the disparity between property owners and everyone else is already eroding generational ties and stoking bitter resentment. It risks distorting our politics, the functioning of our cities and younger Canadians’ financial security. If nothing changes, homeowners will keep getting wealthier, but even they won’t be able to kick the costs down the road forever.

Canada hasn’t always been a nation obsessed with homeownership. Before the Second World War, fewer than half of Canada’s city dwellers owned their own property. The authors of the 1931 census report even declared that the advantages of homeownership were “undermined in urban areas by the convenience and attractiveness of modern multiple-unit dwellings”—renting, in other words.

After the war, everything changed. To accommodate returning veterans and an influx of immigrants, and to create jobs that would sustain the postwar economy, the federal government made massive investments in housing. It built nearly 45,000 homes across the country and, in 1946, created the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The CMHC administered housing programs, making loans to builders and homeowners and overseeing social housing. It also extended favourable mortgage terms to borrowers. In 1954, the government began insuring private mortgages. With loans guaranteed by the government, banks were more willing to lend money. That lowered barriers to homeownership and helped spawn an explosion in single-family housing in Canada’s rapidly growing suburbs.

The combination of accessible mortgages and cheap housing quickly turned Canada into a homeownership society, making middle-class Canadians into masters of their own little domains. In metro Toronto, the homeownership rate grew from 40 per cent of households in the 1930s to a peak of nearly 70 per cent in 2011. A home became one of the primary foundations on which individual Canadians built their financial well-being—not just a place to live, but a rock-solid financial asset.

Of course, the benefits of homeownership were never truly democratic. Low-income Canadians, disproportionately racialized, have always had lower rates of ownership, and Indigenous people have been particularly excluded from its benefits. Under the Indian Act, First Nations people on reserve don’t own the land where they live. They’ve never been able to build intergenerational wealth through housing the way non-Indigenous homeowners have.

Still, as long as housing prices tracked upward in line with incomes, the central promise of an ownership-driven society remained intact for Canada’s mainstream middle class. If you put in the hard work, you too could buy a home.

That was still the case until relatively recently, even in our biggest cities. After a price run-up in the 1980s, the average home in the Greater Toronto Area declined in value during the first half of the ’90s, dropping from $255,000 in 1990 to $198,000 in 1996. Prices settled modestly higher by the end of the decade, at $228,000. But in the early 2000s, as mortgage rates continued to fall, prices began climbing faster. By 2005, the average GTA home cost $336,000. By 2011, the figure was $465,000. Suddenly, being a homeowner, at least in certain cities, was a licence to print money.

In hindsight, that marked the point of departure. Spurred on by low interest rates, growing populations and an inadequate supply of new housing, home prices started rising much, much faster than incomes. From 2001 to 2011, the average GTA home more than doubled in value, while incomes stagnated—the median household income in the area rose from $59,000 in 2001 to only $70,000 in 2011. (That looks like an 18 per cent increase on paper, but it’s actually a decrease in real terms, slightly below the rate of inflation.)

That decoupling accelerated in 2009, after the Bank of Canada dropped interest rates further to shield Canada from the kind of housing crash that decimated the United States. It worked. Home prices climbed faster than ever, propping up the Canadian economy. This lopsided national reliance on real estate has only grown in the past 15 years. Today, buying, selling and leasing property represents the largest segment of our national GDP, at 13 per cent. More than a fifth of our national wealth is tied up in housing. Property owners have always enjoyed more wealth than renters, but that disparity has grown too. In 2019, their average net worth, at $685,400, exceeded that of renters by 29 times. As housing inflation has made property owners richer, many have leveraged that equity to buy more, concentrating more Canadian property in fewer hands. Multiple-property owners now own nearly one-third of homes in Ontario and B.C., and around 40 per cent in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Arguably, the downfall of our precarious system began in 2011, when the homeownership rate nationally peaked at 69 per cent. Or at some point in the years since, as housing prices in cities across Canada climbed to new heights of unattainability. But there’s another factor that has recently poured fuel on the flames, and turned a smouldering crisis, primarily in a few cities, into a nationwide wildfire: the pandemic.

Samantha Ireland and Alex Ullman were ready in 2021 to leave their problem-plagued Waterloo, Ontario, apartment and go condo shopping. Then the city had some of Canada’s most extreme pandemic price inflation. They’re unsure if they’ll ever be able to buy. (Photograph by Kristina Dittmar)

In March of 2020, two things happened: across the country, people sheltered at home from COVID-19, and the Bank of Canada dropped interest rates from 1.75 to 0.25 per cent to quell the economic shockwaves by making it easier to borrow money. The CMHC, around the same time, warned that a pandemic-induced financial shock could cause home prices to plunge by up to 18 per cent, causing one-fifth of mortgage holders to default and triggering years of economic chaos. Many banks lowered mortgage rates below two per cent to bolster sales. In December of 2020, HSBC offered a variable mortgage rate of just 0.99 per cent, the lowest in Canadian history.

Instead of the predicted crash, the market exploded. Many Canadians struggled financially during the first year of the pandemic, but others took advantage of those low rates to go house shopping. As the rise of remote work loosened ties between urban cores and white-collar employees, many decamped from expensive regions in search of cheaper housing, spreading unaffordability outward. In the second half of 2021, more than 123,000 Canadians moved provinces—the highest rate of interprovincial migration since 1991.

What happened next was a nationwide game of musical chairs, as everyone stood up at the same time, looking for a new place to land. In Toronto and Vancouver, unremarkable homes routinely sold for half a million dollars or more over asking. Houses in Ontario’s cottage country went for double their listed prices. By March of 2022, Canada’s benchmark property price across the country was $861,000—28 per cent more than a year before, 54 per cent more than two years before and 130 per cent more than 10 years before. A detached house in a large city would set you even further back. In Vancouver, the benchmark price for a single-family house reached nearly $2.1 million.

For many hopeful buyers, this was when the music stopped and they found themselves without a place to sit. The hardest-hit communities weren’t the already unaffordable big cities, with their multi-million-dollar homes, but the smaller cities and towns upon which hordes of bargain seekers had descended. The result was a rapid distortion of local housing markets from coast to coast. In Chilliwack, a sleepy city in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, prices rose 40 per cent in 2021. New Brunswick’s price increases outpaced Ontario’s, up 25 per cent in 2021, with Prince Edward Island close behind. Millions of mostly young Canadians living in such places saw their long-standing expectations for homeownership vanish nearly overnight.

Among them were Samantha Ireland and Alex Ullman, a young couple in Waterloo, Ontario, who started saving in 2018 for a down payment. Ireland was then 24 years old, a recent massage school graduate launching her career at a sports medicine clinic. Ullman, then 26, was planning to open a running-gear store. They hoped to buy a home after getting their professional footing and paying off their student and business debts. In the meantime, they were paying $1,295 for a rental apartment rife with issues—plumbing problems, constant noise and a balcony unusable for years due to endless building repairs. Still, they figured they could put up with it until they were ready to go house hunting.

By 2021, they had saved enough to start looking for a condo. Unfortunately, that was exactly when the local housing market, which had already escalated over just a few years, went into overdrive. Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo experienced one of the most dramatic pandemic price increases in the country: in early 2022, the benchmark price for a home reached $958,000, compared to $550,000 24 months prior.

Ireland and Ullman had arrived at the station just in time to see the last train depart. The rental market was just as hot, and despite its many shortcomings, their semi-habitable apartment was suddenly too cheap to give up. On average, a two-bedroom like theirs now goes for almost $2,400; moving is impossible if they still want to save. “So we’re stuck,” says Ireland.

Because Canada has spent the past three-quarters of a century putting most of its housing eggs in the homeownership basket, the country hasn’t built enough new rental housing. Back in the 1940s, homeownership was supposed to be the engine that would drive the postwar economy, says Andy Yan, an urban planner and director of the city program at Simon Fraser University. “But we also introduced the belief that this was the only way to provide long-term housing for households.” In particular, the focus on building single-family homes—and protecting the wealth of their owners—led many cities to limit the construction of apartment buildings and reserve most residential land for detached houses, generating value for homeowners but dramatically restricting the supply of new rental housing.

New rentals instead are increasingly found in condos, owned by both corporate investors and independent landlords. They are, on average, much smaller than the purpose-built apartments of decades past, and often poorly suited to the needs of family life—the average new-build condo in Ontario today is only 700 square feet. Because the federal and provincial governments have mostly stopped building social housing, low-income tenants are often left competing with the growing ranks of frustrated prospective homeowners for the same rental stock. And mobility, the great purported advantage of renting, has disappeared as rents have risen. Renters like Ullman and Ireland are shackled in place not by a mortgage, but by the certainty that moving will mean paying far more every month.

The couple are still saving, hoping to eventually buy a condo. But they know whatever they can find will probably be smaller than where they live, and stretch their finances to the limit. They’ll also be in competition with the deep-pocketed investors who own more than three-quarters of newly built condo units in Waterloo. “We’d probably be up against three investors who can outbid us,” says Ullman. “I hate to say it, but that’s what I’d do too. Buy a property, rent it out—it’s the easiest way to make a ton of money each year. It’d be easier than owning a running store, that’s for sure.”

Even as the prospect of spending half a million dollars on 500 square feet strikes them both as absurd, so does leaving their hometown—and with it, their families and the careers they’ve worked hard to build. “It feels like the only way to afford a home is to move to the East Coast, where houses are half the price,” says Ullman. “But then we’d have to start a whole new life.”

If they did make the move, they’d find that the East Coast is also far less accessible than it used to be. The Maritimes experienced enormous population growth during the pandemic, fuelled in part by relatively affordable housing markets, which have warped under the pressure. For Sarah Peacock, that change came as a shock. For 12 years in Vancouver, she worked as an art therapist, and her partner as a teacher. They moved to Nova Scotia with their young son in the summer of 2021. Both are originally from the Halifax area, and they’d always planned to return. But the timing was decided for them once they learned that their landlord planned to move her mother-in-law into their rental suite.

“I think we took it for granted that we could always move back to the Maritimes and buy a house,” says Peacock, who just turned 40. That safety valve had disappeared by the time they made the move. By that summer, benchmark property prices in Halifax had reached $434,000, up from $301,000 only two years prior. (The most recent figure is $507,000.)

Fortunately for Peacock, her family was able to move in with her mother—an arrangement with many benefits, particularly since she gave birth to her second son last year. Rather than buy their own place, Peacock and her partner plan to continue living with her mother, who will eventually sell her current home so they can try to purchase a place together.My ability to stay in the city of my birth was also a stroke of generational good fortune. In 1976, my parents were just a few years out of university when they bought a boxy one-and-a-half-storey house, with a tiny front porch and an apple tree in the backyard, in Vancouver’s west-side Kerrisdale neighbourhood. They had no parental assistance, but the house only cost $56,000, less than three times the average household income of $19,000 at the time. (If its value had kept pace with inflation, it would be worth just over $294,000 today. Instead, it’s valued at just over $2 million—more than 24 times Vancouver’s median household income of $82,000.)

In 2018, my husband and I started talking about having a baby. We knew we would have to move on from our one-room, 650-square-foot studio condo on the edge of Chinatown. But owning that condo, which had doubled in value since my husband purchased it for $338,000 in 2009, gave us more options than many of our friends. Some of them were uncertain when, or if, they could afford to have kids at all. Still, to purchase anything with two bedrooms, let alone a patch of grass, would have required us to leave the city. The prospect of having a baby in a new community, far from friends and family, was hard to swallow. At the same time, my parents were entering their 70s and thinking about downsizing out of their by then ultra-valuable home. The solution became obvious. After a year of cleaning, packing and renovating, they moved into the newly refurbished garden level. My husband and I moved upstairs, a few months before our daughter was born.

This living arrangement marks me as a member of an under-discussed demographic: the nepo babies of the housing market. Since 1977, homeowners have acquired more than $3.2 trillion dollars in wealth, which today is flowing downward to their children, amplifying inequality across generations. I’m grateful for my circumstances, but I know it has nothing to do with my own virtue or achievement. Canada’s housing market is no more meritocratic than a lottery—and some of us hold winning tickets printed long before we were born.

Sarah Peacock and her family moved back to Halifax in 2021, hoping to buy a house and settle down. They now live with Sarah’s mother. (Photograph by Meghan Tansey Whitton)

Shortly after moving, I noticed something striking about the neighbourhood: there were no kids around. Or far fewer than there used to be, anyway. When I was young, there was always someone to play with at the park, and tiny princesses and superheroes crowded the streets at Halloween. Today, when I take my daughter to the playground, she’s often the only one there. It’s not just my imagination: in the past few years, my neighbourhood has lost residents of all ages, and young ones especially. Since 2001, the number of children under 15 in the census tract surrounding my home has shrunk by 25 per cent. Vancouver overall is increasingly bereft of the very young, with fewer children per capita than any other Canadian city of more than 250,000 people.

This isn’t only my neighbourhood, or my city. In 2021, there were 20,000 fewer children under 15 in the Greater Toronto Area than in 2016. Toronto proper has been losing kids for even longer, largely to cheaper cities. And as bargains become harder to find, there’s good reason to believe that the size and structure of Canadian families will change. One of the most widely cited studies on the relationship between homeownership and fertility comes from the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research, which found in 2012 that a 10 per cent increase in housing prices led to modestly higher birth rates—but only for homeowners, who enjoyed a bump in their net worth. Birth rates fell among renters. Consider that homeownership among Canadians of child-rearing age is rapidly declining, and the implications become clear. In 2011, 44 per cent of people 25 to 29 were homeowners; by 2021 that had declined to 36.5 per cent. In B.C. and Ontario, our most expensive provinces, the data shows that people wait longer than elsewhere to have children—in B.C., the average age at which women bear their first child is 31.6, the highest in the country.

Falling birth rates and aging cities mean more than empty playgrounds. They mean, over time, added stress on a labour market that will stagger under the burden of an older population. And they mean reduced tax revenues thanks to a shrinking working-age population, even as the costs of health care and pensions go up.

Ashley Jardine is one young parent who had to choose between space for a growing family and life in the city. In March of 2020, at 34 years old, she and her partner moved to Bowen Island, a 20-minute ferry ride from Vancouver, where they could afford to size up from a one-bedroom loft to a rented house, with room for two young kids and a rambunctious dog. They fell in love with the folksy island community and worked hard to save a down payment for a home there.

But here the same old story repeated itself. By the following spring, prices had risen well over 30 per cent, and their landlords seized the hot market to sell. They offered Jardine the chance to buy the house privately, but she couldn’t afford the $850,000 asking price. Even that was a bargain, with most houses on the island selling for more than $1 million. They found another rental, but they know that isn’t a permanent situation either. Today, a sense of precarity looms over the family’s otherwise idyllic situation.

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Unable to afford space for her family in Vancouver, Ashley Jardine moved with her partner and two children in 2020 to nearby Bowen Island. As a renter, she worries their housing is precarious, and she doesn’t know where they’ll go next. “I feel a kind of desperation,” she says.(Photograph by Alana Paterson)

And as a renter, Jardine senses an invisible wedge between her family and the neighbours. She wonders why she’s putting so much into a community she knows she’ll one day be forced to leave: “I feel a kind of desperation. And I’m also very bitter about it. I don’t want to go.”

That bitterness is not unique to her. In May of 2023, a survey conducted for the Globe and Mail found that more than half of respondents between 20 and 40 were “angry” or “furious” about the housing market. Alex Ullman, describing the way investors have gobbled up new housing in Waterloo, keeping out prospective young buyers like himself, echoed that outrage. “It pisses me off,” he says.

A TD Economics report released last year made starkly clear the consequences for individuals and families of this growing division. “Wealth inequality in Canada is not just a story of rich versus poor, it is one of homeowners versus non-homeowners,” the authors wrote. “With affordability now at its worst level in decades, the current generation of prospective homebuyers is facing the fate of missing out on housing wealth.” That wealth is a key instrument by which Canadians have—by design, since the 1940s—built their financial security.

“Even someone who owns a 450-square-foot apartment has access to all these tools that a renter doesn’t,” says Andy Yan. Consider, he says, the tax credits and forgivable loans the government lavishes on buyers for renovations. Or the fact that a home is one of the few investments Canadians can sell without paying capital gains tax. There’s also the small fortune available to many owners in home equity credit, and, of course, the equity itself.

Economists and personal finance experts have long warned that our overreliance on a single asset for financial security invites disaster, especially in a crash. The effort we put into building housing equity may be better invested in the stock market, some argue. But with the dramatic escalation of rents, it’s hard to imagine that very many of those households shut out of homeownership have enough money to pay rent and invest as much as they’d otherwise spend on a mortgage.

It’s no wonder Ullman is pissed off.

As the promise of homeownership is denied to Canadians, new fractures will grow: between young and old, between neighbours, between regions and between political factions. That frustration Alex Ullman and countless others feel will boil over in a hundred different ways. It already has.

You can see it in the way it has inflamed tensions between provinces, as homeowners from more expensive areas flock to cheaper ones. Nearly 89,000 Ontarians left that province in the first years of the pandemic, many in search of cheaper housing, driving up unaffordability elsewhere and stoking resentment against perceived interlopers. One Toronto couple, who started a TikTok to document their renovation of a Victorian house in Nova Scotia—after selling a 490-square-foot Toronto condo—garnered furious messages from some locals. “Congratulations, you’re what every single Nova Scotian hates right now,” went one missive. “Thanks for destroying our home.”

You see it too in the constant urban battles around new development, usually featuring homeowners digging in their heels against new housing. Examples are too numerous to count, but one of the most headline-grabbing examples in the past couple of years has been—where else—in Vancouver. In 2001, the Squamish First Nation successfully reclaimed a historic village site called Sen’ák¯w, not far from downtown. In 2019, the nation announced plans to build 6,000 rental homes on the 10.5-acre parcel—a level of density far beyond what would be allowed under municipal zoning, but permissible because, as First Nations land, Sen’ák¯w is not beholden to city rules. A major goal of the Squamish housing strategy is allowing their members to build the kind of housing wealth that has historically been out of reach for First Nations—not to mention building homes for thousands of people in a city experiencing a dire shortage of housing. This has drawn fierce opposition from homeowners in nearby Kitsilano, a 1960s hippie enclave that has aged into one of the city’s most expensive communities. A nearby neighbourhood association has even gone to the B.C. Supreme Court to seek a judicial review of an agreement struck between the First Nation and the city, which would require the city to provide municipal services to the development. (The request remains in limbo as of this writing.)

What is newer is pushback against this kind of NIMBYism, from so-called YIMBYs (for “yes in my backyard”)—generally younger people and housing advocates hopeful that a dramatic injection of new housing supply will help stem the tide of unaffordability, regardless of how extant homeowners feel about it. Such groups are now finding themselves up against NIMBY groups, lobbying elected representatives and pushing for zoning reform they hope will permit more housing to be built in more places.

These clashes will be drawn in large part along generational lines, as younger Canadians find themselves left out of the homeownership bonanza of the past two decades. And as the gap between housing haves and have-nots grows, the pressure will move downward to crush those already most vulnerable. Those hit hardest will still, just as in the past, be those most disadvantaged, including people of colour and Indigenous people. That gap is getting wider: homeownership rates among Black Canadians, already the lowest in the country, fell by nearly eight per cent between 2011 and 2016. We will also be faced with more visible signs of dysfunction, like the tent cities of the unhoused that popped up and grew dramatically from coast to coast during the pandemic years.

Political polarization may also intensify. In 2021, British researchers analyzed recent electoral results in 11 European countries. They concluded that not only were renters and homeowners politically divided, those divisions grew as homes became less affordable. Homeowners became less supportive of policies such as rent control or tax reform to help non-owners, and even less supportive of building new housing. Renters moved in the opposite direction. “The beneficiaries of unaffordability will prefer to keep policies and parties in place that keep prices high and rising,” concluded the authors. “They do so at the cost of growing polarization between renters and owners.”

Of course, any politician, left or right, can capitalize on righteous populist anger over the cost of housing. In Canada, Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre has successfully seized on house prices as a wedge issue. Paul Kershaw is a policy professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health, and the founder of Generation Squeeze, a think tank focused on addressing generational unfairness. “Poilievre is tapping into the anger of a younger demographic in a way that the Conservative Party typically has not,” he says. “The growing generational inequality, in terms of wealth and access to housing security, may change the way young and old map onto political affiliations, and what those affiliations mean.”

In other words, uncharted territory for typically rock-steady Canadian politics. Young voters have been key to electing the last two Liberal governments, but the current government has little credibility with that demographic on this file. That may have something to do with the fact that multiple-property owners, who have profited enormously from the past few years’ run-up in property values, are well-represented in government. More than 100 MPs, comprising more than one-third of Parliament, own multiple properties. They include the federal minister of housing, Ahmed Hussen, and Taleeb Noormohamed, MP for Vancouver Granville, who has made nearly $5 million dollars since 2005 selling more than 40 properties in Metro Vancouver. His constituents, meanwhile, are increasingly locked out of the financial benefits that owning even one home confers.

“We’ve screwed over young people, and we’ve screwed over newcomers of every age,” says Kershaw. “The group we need to tap into is the older demographic, who have been securely housed and made wealthier. We need to have a moral conversation about what it means to be on the sidelines.”

Otherwise, the outcome is clear. More and more Canadian neighbourhoods will begin to resemble mine: quiet and lonely communities accessible only to the privileged few who have already acquired or inherited housing wealth, and who seek to get richer still. Ultimately, all of us will pay the price.

This article appears in print in the July 2023 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Buy the issue for $9.99 or better yet, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for just $39.99.