Paul Liberatore

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Single ladies drive Canada's condo market



The one-person household is the fastest-growing category in Canada’s housing market as the population ages and more people opt to live alone.

One-person “households are expected to show the fastest pace of growth to 2036, making it the single biggest type of household by the 2020s,” according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. statistics for 2013.

And home ownership by one-person households is also on the rise as seniors become wealthier and young people delaying marriage flock to budget-priced, one-bedroom condominiums.

Women are overrepresented in the singles condo market, according to CMHC.

In 2011 – the latest year for which data are available – women represented 65 percent of condo owner occupants living alone, with that number rising to 76 percent for those 55 and older.

Also in 2011, 28 percent of households were one-person, more than twice their 13 percent share in 1971. In comparison, couples with children over the same time span shrank to 29 percent from 50 percent.

“This is a very important force: more single people living by themselves, mainly women,” CIBC World Markets Inc. deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal said.

In the booming condo market – particularly Toronto – “you can see the one-bedroom is basically what’s selling,” Tal said.

“There are now more one-person households than couples with children. This share is expected to continue to rise over the next two decades, driven in large part by an aging population, in particular an increase in the number of widowed women living alone,” Bank of Nova Scotia economist Adrienne Warren said in a report on global real estate trends last year.

But it’s still too early to call the huge presence of women in one-person arrangements as a “widow boom.”

The trend has been a decline in older women living alone since 2001, University of Lethbridge sociology professor Susan McDaniel said. But among women under 65, one-person households are rising, she said.

Also contributing to the shift to single-person households is a growing desire for privacy.

“Part of the issue is that more people can choose to live alone,” McDaniel said. And they are “living alone but not alone.”

The Internet boom and social networking make connecting with friends and family much easier while at the same time enjoying one’s privacy, she said. “Partly, they are living alone because they can and they have big social nets or families, but they can afford to and want to live alone.”

Immigrants, particularly among professionals, are less likely to share apartments or houses, Tal said.

A person living alone is still more likely to rent than to own but that is changing fast.

“In 2006, about half [52 percent] were renters compared with less than a third of the overall population,” Warren said.

“Nonetheless, the home ownership rate among one-person households has increased in recent decades. Among these homeowners, almost a quarter chose a condominium over other dwelling types.”


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