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Construction of the Time and Space condominium project, at the corner of Sherbourne St. and Front St. East, on Jan 13, 2022.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The number of homes in Toronto has increased at a faster pace than the city’s population over the past five years, according to new census data that provide a fresh look at the mismatch between housing supply and demand in the city.

The number of private dwellings in the Toronto area rose by 7 per cent, to 2,394,205, between 2016 and 2021. Meanwhile, the area’s population grew by 4.6 per cent, to 6,202,225 residents, according to the census figures, which were released on Wednesday.

These new numbers call into question the often-cited idea that a shortage of homes is a major reason the city’s housing prices have soared to record highs. The typical home across the country is 41 per cent more expensive than it was in January, 2020. In Toronto, the typical home price rose 52 per cent over the past two years.

“The fact that the number of dwellings has risen strongly, and even faster than the overall population in both the past five and 10 years, suggests that a big supply response is not going to magically solve this issue all by itself,” said Douglas Porter, chief economist with Bank of Montreal. “Policy makers will also need to address the demand side.”

The federal housing agency, many economists and the real estate industry have repeatedly said there is a shortage of homes in Canada, and that one solution to the country’s housing affordability crisis would be to ramp up the construction of residential real estate.

Across the country, the number of private dwellings – which include houses and condos – climbed by 5.7 per cent, to 16,284,235, between 2016 and 2021, the census shows. During the same time period, the country’s population expanded by 5.2 per cent, to 36,991,981 people.

These numbers were among the first tranche of data released from Statistics Canada’s 2021 census. They also reveal where Canada’s population is growing the fastest.

The data show that the country has become more urban, with residents settling in cities’ downtown cores at a faster pace than during the preceding five years. Downtown Toronto’s population grew three times faster than that of the city as a whole. In Montreal, the downtown rate was five times greater than that of the broader city.

In Montreal, the number of housing units rose by 5.7 per cent and the population increased by 4.6 per cent. In Vancouver, the number of private dwellings and the population rose at roughly equal paces.

In Atlantic Canada, the number of homes increased at a lower rate than the population did. In Alberta, which has been dealing with a shrinking oil industry, the number of private dwellings rose at a much faster rate than the province’s population.

In Toronto, the rise in the number of dwellings could be related to the fact that more residents are choosing to live alone.

The 2016 census showed that one-person households were the most common type of household in Canada, surpassing couples with children for the first time. At the time, a Statscan research paper suggested that the living-alone trend had increased demand for smaller, individual housing units, which can be built in greater numbers than houses.

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