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The pandemic’s real estate boom has been largely because of record low borrowing costs, which have also helped fuel demand from investors.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

There’s new evidence to suggest that a minority of Canadian homeowners are amassing large amounts of residential real estate in Ontario and B.C.

New data reveal that 15.5 per cent of individual homeowners own 31.1 per cent of all residential properties in Ontario as of 2019. In British Columbia, 15 per cent of individual owners held 29.1 per cent of the provincial housing stock.

The data is from the Canadian Housing Statistics Program, or CHSP, set up five years ago through Statistics Canada to fill a data gap on the forces driving the country’s housing market.

The findings are CHSP’s first comprehensive look at individuals who hold multiple properties and what they own. They’re released less than a week after Ottawa introduced a budget that attempts to alleviate the country’s affording housing crisis by pumping billions of dollars into new home construction, helping first-time homebuyers, and curbing foreign real estate buyers.

The budget did not address the role of retail real estate investors, whose buying doubled over the first year of the pandemic and represented just over 20 per cent of all purchases across the country in the first half of 2021.

“Individual multiple-property owners hold a significant share of the residential property stock, despite accounting for a relatively small number of owners,” the CHSP report said, adding that owners seeking additional properties “contribute to increased competition in already tight real estate markets, making it more difficult for prospective homeowners to purchase a home.”

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Statistics on multiple-home owners in urban Ontario and B.C. offer an indication of the level of investment in residential real estate by individual real estate investors, or those who invest for themselves.

Although many homeowners own a recreational property or cottage, the CHSP report said that the majority of the multiple-property owners held all their real estate within the same census metropolitan area. The data is from 2019 and therefore does not reflect the pandemic’s real estate frenzy where home prices soared, particularly in the smaller cities and rural areas.

CHSP data show that in New Brunswick, 19.6 per cent of individual homeowners held 38.7 per cent of the housing stock in the province. In Nova Scotia, 21.6 per cent of homeowners held 40.9 per cent of the residential real estate. However, given that only about one-fifth of multiple-home owners held all their properties within the same census metropolitan area in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the CHSP said it is likely that those secondary properties are recreational and not investment properties.

“We suspect that there’s a lot more multiple-property ownership arrangements that are in line with recreational purpose to a greater extent than what we see in Ontario,” said Jean-Philippe Deschamps-Laporte, head of the CHSP.

The pandemic’s real estate boom has been largely because of record low borrowing costs, which have also helped fuel demand from investors.

Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s city program, said the latest CHSP data suggests that governments should consider who gets to buy. Real estate investing is legal in Canada and has grown in popularity as home prices have jumped and residents look for other ways to earn a living, as well as retirement income.

But Mr. Yan said governments should consider policies to “even the playing field” between someone looking to buy their first home and someone looking for their second or third housing unit.

CHSP was established after the 2017 real estate boom in Toronto and Vancouver. At the time, foreign buying was thought to be behind the rising home prices in the Vancouver region, but there was no comprehensive data. CHSP uses tax filings, land registry data and property assessments for their analysis. The program relies on co-operation from provinces and territories, which is why the data set does not cover the entire country.

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