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More seniors electing to stay in their home instead of downsizing

Canada Mortgage and Housing says rental rates for older cohorts less pronounced than before
A new report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says that although seniors tend to consider downsizing as they age, a large proportion are instead choosing to age in their home rather than put it on the market. Houses are seen on Squamish Nation land in North Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Although seniors tend to consider downsizing as they get older, a large proportion are instead choosing to age in their home rather than put it on the market, according to a report by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. on Wednesday.

The report which studied the dynamics of senior households showed housing preferences tend to change as people age, with more choosing to move into a condominium, rent a home or downsize their living space as they get older.

The proportion of seniors who sell their property usually rises as their age increases, according to CMHC. That means it will take another few years before Canada, with an increasingly aging population, potentially sees a truly significant proportion of senior households listing their properties for sale.

But the national housing agency said the usual increase in renter rates as cohorts age has also been occurring later in life and is less pronounced than it used to be. From 1996 to 2001, 38.6 per cent of homeowners over age 75 sold their property, compared with 36 per cent of homeowners from that demographic between 2016 and 2021.

“Overall, these results indicate that population aging may be affecting the number of units listed on the market, but that the impact remains limited for the time being, particularly for the youngest of the elderly households,” the report said.

The decrease in renter rates among seniors could be due to factors such as people living longer, which would reduce the need for downsizing to lessen the burden of maintenance, the report said.

Other possible reasons include households having more money than their predecessors which makes them less reliant on property sales to provide for themselves, and homeowners in urban centres already having a wider range of housing to choose from.

Households in Toronto and Vancouver are the most likely to transition to condominiums, while in Montreal, there’s a preference for moving to rental housing, according to the report.

As Canada looks to create additional housing to bring costs down, CMHC said solutions geared toward seniors could include increasing supply from existing units by creating secondary suites or laneway homes.

CMHC said policymakers should monitor trends in the coming decades to see whether aging in place could become more popular with seniors, or whether the recent rise in rental housing starts in various regions across the country encourage more senior households to opt for renting.

“The proportion of older Canadian households that sell their property as they age is high only in relatively advanced age groups. It will therefore take another few years to see a truly significant proportion of elderly households list their properties for sale,” the report said.

“In other words, these outcomes seem to suggest that a large proportion of senior households (especially younger ones) are deciding to age in their home rather than put it on the market.”

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