Canadian government raising immigration targets
Exactly when new arrivals will impact housing markets is vague. Border entry is limited to those who can show they’re fully vaccinated.
But, once the pandemic’s threat has largely passed, the U.S. and Canadian governments have both expressed hopes that border traffic will return to normal.
Likewise, while Canada’s immigration goals call for 401,000 new permanent residents this year (reaching 1.2 million by 2023), dates aren’t specific and COVID-19 will continue to delay things in the short term.
Canada’s borders have been closed to most immigrants for much of the pandemic. But as the country’s population ages, economic immigration from workers and employers who ultimately become permanent residents has become more important.
“The key to both short-term economic recovery and long-term prosperity is immigration,” Marco Mendicino, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, said at a news conference where he revealed the country’s goals through 2023.
The newcomers will put pressure on housing — either as homebuyers or renters.
In addition to new permanent residents, the number of international students in Canada is also rebounding. Those numbers were rising sharply before the pandemic, growing to 402,500 in 2019 — a 15% increase from 2018, according to government data.
Those with temporary work permits will also grow the population. Almost 70,000 more people were issued work permits in 2019 (a total of 404,000) and 63,020 people with temporary work permits were granted permanent residency.
Newcomers will need housing
Home prices were rising pre-COVID-19, due to a lack of housing supply combined with low mortgage rates and strong consumer demand.
Amid the new immigration policies, a growing student population and a proposed childcare system that’s expected to give families room to save more of their income, demand for housing will only grow, according to a recent report from Scotiabank.
Yet, home construction hasn’t kept up with demand for several years.
This year, as fewer newcomers have entered the country, the ratio of home completions to population has improved slightly. That’s likely to worsen as the government meets its immigration targets, the report says.
To avoid a continued rapid acceleration in home prices, experts argue immigration targets should align with housing policies that help meet the demand.
“Our federal government's decision to raise immigration targets today without making the corresponding supply-side housing policy changes needed to increase supply is a decision to inflate home prices out of reach of most Canadians tomorrow — including many of our newest fellow citizens,” John Pasalis, the president of Toronto-based Realosophy Realty, says in a recent market report.
Immigration to impact the resale and rental markets
While Canada’s major cities have seen double-digit home price growth in recent years, the market overall appears to be calming.
July sales slipped 3.5% on a month-over-month basis, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association, and sales are down a cumulative 28% from a March 2021 peak.
Home sales in Canada fell a significant 14% year over year in August, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) said Sept. 15. Still, the association says, home sales in this country remain historically strong. And a lack of supply of homes for sale is pushing prices to record levels in Canada's most populous cities.
The rental market, too, has been down from its high — in part due to restrictions on Airbnb units, which released bundles of short-term rentals into the traditional leasing market.
“When the borders open and [people] go back to university, you’re going to see an increase in the rental market,” Storey says. “Then it will flood into the sale market.”
But analysts say the property market is facing headwinds — namely inflation and the specter of rising interest rates.
And many of the Canadians who wanted to buy a home in order to get more space amid the pandemic, or even downsize, have already done so, says Adil Dinani of the Dinani Group for Royal LePage West in Vancouver. That may help cool off prices in the months to come.
Building more housing also will help.
“Supply is the common denominator in most of these major markets,” Dinani says. “There’s a shortage of quality inventory.”