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Owning a home of your own has long been a cornerstone of the American dream. So in the wake of the U.S. housing market collapse in the mid-2000s, as home ownership rates there plummeted, more than a few smug Canadian observers—and anxious American ones—noted that the country’s northern neighbour was out-dreaming America. By 2011, Canada’s home ownership rate, or the share of households that are owner-occupied, had climbed to 69%, while the U.S. rate had tumbled to 66% from 69% in 2004, before bottoming at less than 64% a few years later.

But the past decade has seen home ownership rates in the two countries converge to within a percentage point of each other in 2021 (66.5% in Canada, 65.5% in the U.S.) as ownership levels in the United States rebounded while growing numbers of Canadians were squeezed out of the market altogether by year after year of double-digit house-price gains.

When Statistics Canada reported the downturn in home ownership rates in September as part of its release of 2021 census data, the hit to one demographic group stood out: young adults. The home ownership rate for those aged 30 to 34 fell to 52.3% from 59.2%. The drop was even more pronounced for those in the 25 to 29 age group, falling 7.6 percentage points to 36.5%.

Those declines look even starker when compared to how young Americans have fared between 2011 and 2021. Young-adult ownership rates have largely held steady or, in the case of 25- to 29-year-olds, increased. While ownership levels are still slightly higher for young Canadians, the trend of the past decade shows a massive erosion of the ownership dream for young people in this country.

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