January 14, 2019

How do we avoid a housing shortage in Canada?

Innovative Housing Solutions

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Unlike Vancouver and Toronto, it's still possible to purchase a detached home in Winnipeg for under $100,000. However, whether it will need additional work or reside in a walkable neighbourhood is an entirely different story.

The City of Winnipeg has grown steadily over the last 15 years as the housing market expands with the development of new neighbourhoods like Bridgwater and other surrounding communities. So, why is the number of millennials who are buying single-family homes steadily decreasing?

Studies have found that the average ratio of income to average home price has increased from four to one in 1976 to 10 to one that currently exists now. While homes have risen on average from $213,000 to an average of $510,179, the median earnings have decreased from $54,700 to $49,800. When you ask a child what their life will look like as an adult, owning a house is often included in that picture. Homeownership remains a goal for many people—it builds equity and prosperity—however, it's has become less and less feasible to afford one overtime.

So, what’s next for Winnipeg and cities across Canada? While millennials slowly come to terms that the typical dream of homeownership is something that most won’t be able to attain, cities across Canada hold a responsibility to look at solutions to contend with the growing population. It's also important to look at what millennials and future generations want. White picket fence syndrome has been cured for some time. Canada is forecasted to grow from its 35.2 million population to an estimated 44.1 population by 2041 and possibly more due to globalization. As Emeka Nnadi, principal of Nadi wrote, "In response to globalization, the real estate development industry has the opportunity to become agents of positive change. The development industry must seek more efficient and compact community footprints that carefully manage fading resources as populations increase. Examples of this include the need for more inclusive, accessible and supportive physical and social infrastructure models for ageing populations, more creative and renewable energy infrastructures for expanding energy demands and more community paradigms that celebrate diversity while supporting, or even inspiring, a heightened sense of global belonging." Not to mention that factoring in the current housing occupancy rate, Canada in this time, will need to build an additional 3.8 million homes (or more) as well as a potential one million (or more) rental units to provide housing solutions for the increase in population.

The question remains which is the best method to reach these potential goals? "Growth signals that a city is in demand, that it is creating jobs and new opportunities for residents," writes Mark Brown, a senior editor for MoneySense. However, as Canada continues to grow, the focus will ned to be on building communities that can sustain that future growth. This means, focusing on designing and building complete communities or something similar. A complete community is the innovative planning and designing of holistic communities that reduce economic and environmental costs while enhancing community livability.

Statistics Canada's 2016 census shows the country's urbanization trend continues, but big cities are experiencing significant internal population shifts as some suburbs boom and others wane. Statistics Canada calls the direction an "urban spread," as the overall move toward urbanization continues nationwide, but with faster growth in the suburbs. Therefore, if this trend continues, the new suburbs should be built with holistic guidelines that offer a variety of housing options such as detached homes, townhouses, apartments and condos. Luckily, Canadian cities are not only growing out, but they're also growing up. Builders are adapting to land shortages and to the evolving lifestyles of Canadians by building more apartments and condominiums, maximizing the use of available space.

However, what to make of the cities' downtowns while the suburbs continue its spread? This trend towards urbanization makes the development of city centres important for long-term growth. As Winnipeg develops their inner-city, it becomes more critical that all aspects of downtown living are fully met, and this includes the very foundations we attribute to complete communities. Winnipeg's downtown is not just business, approximately 13,470 people live there—it's their home and deserves to have the same amenities and green space provided for them as their suburban counterparts. Between the development of the SHED District and the current tower being built at 300 Main Street. Downtown Winnipeg is trending towards this future of downtown density even if projects like the opening of Portage and Main still need to be addressed.

The combination of current trends and future growth leads many countries including Canada to look towards solutions that are smart as well as good for the environment. The way we view and plan cities must evolve, and while complete communities offer this in theory, it has to be implemented at each stage of the design process. As housing continues to increase, we need to prepare future generations with adequate housing options with the ability to create new communities within them.