Millennials — individuals born between 1980 and 1999 — have the lowest rate of home-ownership in British Columbia, compared to other demographics, according to new figures from Statistics Canada.
About one out of seven homeowners in B.C. — just under 14 per cent— fall into the millennial category. By comparison, individuals born between 1950 and 1969 record a home-ownership rate of 45.7 per cent. The number would be even higher if individuals born between 1940 and 1949 were included, as that category captures the start of the baby boom generation. Generation X — individuals born between 1970 and 1979 — records a home-ownership rate of 17.4 per cent.
The low rate of home-ownership among millennials does not surprise. While millennials recently surpassed baby boomers as the largest demographic group in Canada in accounting for 27 per cent of the overall population, they “may be facing different challenges in building wealth than previous generations of young Canadians” as a recent report from Statistics Canada puts it.
“Despite being the most educated generation, concerns have been raised that millennials have been ‘slower to launch,’” it reads.
Reasons for this reality are many fold. First, the good news. As millennials have entered the workforce over the last decade, their inflation-adjusted, real median after-tax household incomes have been higher than those of baby boomers or Gen-Xers at the same age, and millennials who have entered the real estate market have seen their assets rise. But millennials have also piled up more debt relative to their incomes when compared to young Gen-Xers and young baby boomers, thanks in part to higher student debt.
While millennials might be the most educated generation in Canadian history — about 70 per cent of those between 30 and 34 years old had a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree, compared to about 55 per cent of Gen-Xers at the same age — this reality has also left him with more debt relative to income.
Sociologists, economists and historians have also noted that today’s millennials are entering an economy radically different from the economy of the first decades following the end of the Second World War. Manufacturing — partly buoyed by military spending related to the Cold War competition between the West and the East — still accounted for a significant share of western economies, granting millions the prospect of steady paycheque. High rates of unionization and social welfare spending further levelled the economic playing field.
Young people entering the workforce today are instead competing for unsteady jobs in the service industry, where incomes can range widely, thanks to several factors including advances in technology and neo-liberal policies that have allowed companies to shift production around the world. Globalization has also internationalized local real estate markets.
In short, millennials face constraints on their purchasing power that previous generations did not face, forcing many of them to either rent or live with their parents as they try to adjust to these conditions. Consider the following numbers. Figures from Abacus Data show 73 per cent of Canadian millennials either rent (40 per cent) or live with their parents (33 per cent).
This same data also shows that 80 per cent of millennials want to own a home, suggesting the existence of an untapped market. This said, the reporting from Abacus Data is not optimistic.
“With persistently high property prices, home ownership seems to be the privilege of the wealthy and well-positioned and millennials who work for depressed wages will have to keep waiting and saving until they can finally afford the home of their dreams,” it reads.