Expensive housing could lead to brain drain: OREA

by Neil Sharma on 15 Jul 2021

Behrooz Davani is a realtor with Royal LePage Altitude in Montreal who has been fielding what he says is an unusually high number of phone calls from Ontarians thinking about moving to the French-speaking metropolis.

“Comparing the volume of calls I get from Ontario, I’d say I’m getting 30-40% more than the same period last year, which was when Montreal had briefly reopened from lockdown,” he said. “The price of real estate is one thing, but Montreal is generally a very affordable city, and compared to Toronto, where I visit a lot, the cost of living in Montreal is more affordable. Montreal has good universities, good nightlife, and big companies are moving here, so there are a lot of job openings and there’s a lot of potential.”

That Davani’s phone rings with Ontario area codes more this year than in 2020 could be explained by real estate prices surging in Canada’s most populous province. According to a new poll from the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), 46% of prospective homebuyers under 45 have considered or are considering leaving the province to buy a home, while 33% of people under the age of 29 expressed similar sentiments. The poll also found that 56% of buyers aren’t sure they can purchase a home in their desired communities.

Tim Hudak, OREA’s CEO, says there could be economic ramifications to Ontario losing homebuyers whose search for affordable homes leads them out of the province.

“The lack of housing supply is leading many to look outside the province for their first homes and that will make it difficult to retain and attract talent in Ontario in the near future,” said Hudak. “The government of Ontario’s More Homes, More Choice Act is an excellent first step but if we want to reverse this brain drain, municipalities also need to deliver by opening up more housing opportunities.”

Sixty-eight percent of respondents believe the Ontario government could intervene with policies that support housing affordability in the province.

“The affordability crisis continues to crush the dream of homeownership for many Ontarians and this has been intensified by the economic impact of the pandemic,” continued Hudak. “Governments need to act if we want to create future generations of homeowners and that starts with pro-growth policies that could bring affordability closer to first-time homebuyers and address the supply shortage.”

There are indications that Ontarians are already leaving the province, albeit not necessarily because of expensive housing. Allan Asplin, a broker with Judy Lindsay Team Realty in Winnipeg, noted that there were 19 sales of homes over $1 million in the city in all of 2020, and 47 so far this year.

“A lot of young people leave Winnipeg to go to Toronto and Vancouver where they have their careers but they come back here. I’ve already seen that recently with three couples,” he said. “They’re able to sell their house in Vancouver or Toronto, which are nice average houses in those cities, and they come back with $1 million or $2 million and buy some of the nicest houses in Winnipeg.”

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