A word to all the young adults who can no longer afford a house in this country: It’s not your fault.
Your affordability issues are not because you ordered avocado toast for brunch, drank some lattes, took some trips, didn’t make super-smart investments or decide to tie yourself down to home ownership at the very first feasible moment in your life.
The country’s housing affordability problems are about weird times in real estate brought on by the pandemic. It’s nothing you did or failed to do. Please stop beating yourself up for not owning a house, and don’t let anyone else shame you for that.
A fault line is growing between those who own a house and those who are shut out by price gains that have been in the range of 20 per cent to 30 per cent this year compared with the same period of 2020. Millennials and members of Gen Z are seeing their friends and family groups dividing into those who got into the housing market early and those who put off buying for whatever reason and now can’t see getting in.
Money-wise, we often blame ourselves when things don’t turn out well. It’s because financial advice is built on a philosophy of personal responsibility that too often fails to take personal circumstances into consideration.
The housing situation is an example of how making the right moves depends on many factors out of your control. Your parents, for instance: Another divide opening up in housing has young buyers reliant on their own finances on one side, and the children of well-off parents on the other. Parental money becomes the big difference-maker when soaring prices keep raising minimum down payments.
Parental help with college or university tuition also has an influence on who can afford a house, and when. Repaying a student debt of tens of thousands of dollars delays saving for a down payment, and cuts into the amount of mortgage debt a young adult can carry.
The job market has also worked against the home ownership aspirations of young adults. In the pandemic, the hardest hit cohorts in a financial sense are women and young adults. Long before the pandemic, many young adults found only contract and temporary work that didn’t offer the security of a full-time position with benefits.
Even full-time jobs are no guarantee of being able to buy a house in expensive markets such as Vancouver and Toronto, where the average house price is above $1-million. According to Ratehub.ca, you’d need an annual income of at least $175,230 to afford a $1-million house bought with the minimum 20-per-cent down payment (lesser down payments are okay for houses below that price threshold).
Statistics Canada says the median total income for people aged 25 to 34 years in 2019 was $41,700. Double that for a couple’s income and you end up at $83,400, less than half of what’s needed in that $1-million-home example.
Young adults are also being blamed if they’re not willing to move to a smaller city or town, where houses are still comparatively affordable. But there are lots of reasons why this might not be practical – you can’t work remotely, you have family obligations or you feel more comfortable in a socially diverse urban environment.
Feeling that your mistake was not pushing yourself to buy a house sooner, before prices jumped? Because of how much prices have risen, there is definitely a trend among younger twentysomethings to get into the housing market as soon as possible. But there’s a lot to be said for gathering some life experience before settling down to own a home. After you buy, your life will very much revolve around your home.
Home ownership used to be something you looked at when the time was right in your life – for example, you’re starting a family. Blame the pandemic for the intense urgency people feel now about buying. Low interest rates cut the cost of mortgages, and demand blew up because people wanted bigger homes with yards. Join the 99.99 per cent if you didn’t see this coming.
Coming up: Financial planners offer some practical ideas for people worried they will never be able to afford a house.
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