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These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, Sept. 11., 2013.

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Spending more on housing
One-quarter of Canadian families spend more than they should on housing, the 2011 National Household Survey shows.

That's further evidence that many Canadians are living beyond their means, burdened by high debts, though that has been easing.

According to the survey released today by Statistics Canada, 3.3 million Canadian households spend 30 per cent or more of total income for shelter.

Of those, about 1.7 million are owners, and 1.6 million rent.

"Although the overall numbers were similar, given there are more homeowners than renters, a larger proportion of tenant households exceeded the affordability threshold," Statistics Canada said.

"In 2011, 40.1 per cent of households that rented their dwelling paid 30 per cent or more of their total income towards shelter costs, compared with about one-fifth (18.5 per cent) of owner households," the federal agency added in the report.

The numbers vary across the country, of course, but Vancouver accounts for the highest, at 33.5 per cent, and Saguenay the lowest, at 18.9 per cent.

The 30-per-cent threshold is one that was agreed on as a benchmark by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and provincial officials in 1986.

Characteristics of the condo dweller
Here's what the 2011 National Household Survey says about condo dwellers:

1. More than 1.6 million households are now in condominiums. That's 12.1 per cent, up from 10.9 per cent in in 2006.

2. Of those, 1.15 million own, and about 460,000 rent.

3. Almost 77 per cent of those condo households are concentrated in 10 cities, as you'd expect. Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are home to 53.5 per cent of condo dwellers.

4. Among those top 10 cities, high-rises accounted for 67.4 per cent in Toronto, while low-rises accounted for 69.5 per cent in Quebec City, 64.2 per cent in Montreal and 53.7 per cent in Victoria. Row houses accounted for 60 per cent in London, Ont., and 55 per cent in Hamilton.

5. More than 45 per cent of condo owners are "non-family," compared to just 15.6 per cent in other homes. More than 42 per cent are "couple-family," with or without kids.

6. People under the age of 35 account for the "primary household maintainer" in condos, compared to 10.5 per cent in other homes.

7. Those over 65 represented 26.1 per cent.

8. Average annual household income for condo owners is $33,000 less than that of other homeowners, some $80,000 a year vs. $113,000. Breaking that down: Income for those between the ages of 35 and 64 is $38,000 lower, while that of those under 35 is $24,000 lower and that of those 65 and up is $12,000 lower.

9. On average, condo owners expect they would sell for $327,000, compared to $472,000 among other homeowners.

Keeping up with the Joneses
Some high-end highlights from the 2011 National Household Survey:

1. Making the top 1 per cent requires total income of $191,100, almost seven times the national median of $27,800.

2. Making the top 5 per cent requires $102.300.

3. Making the top 10 per cent requires $80,400.

4. Almost 88 per cent of those in the top 1 per cent are in five professional groups: Management (38.8 per cent), health (14.3 per cent), business, finance and administration (13.7 per cent), education, law and social and government services (11 per cent), and natural and applied sciences and related occupations (9.9 per cent).

5. More than 67 per cent of the top 1 per cent have a university degree.

6. As The Globe and Mail's Bill Curry reports, the top 1 per cent is overwhelmingly male, primarily older than 45, and also probably has investment income.

McCarthy goes to Scotiabank
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's former chief of staff has left Ottawa to take on a new role at the Bank of Nova Scotia, The Globe and Mail's Tim Kiladze reports.

Kevin McCarthy, who has been Mr. Flaherty's chief of staff for three years, will become a director in Scotiabank's Canadian banking unit starting in November.

Gabriel warns it will sue
Gabriel Resources Ltd. vows to sue the Romanian government for billions of dollars if parliament votes next week to kill the Canadian company's Rosia Montana mine, Europe's biggest gold mining project, our European correspondent Eric Reguly reports today.

"If the lower house [of parliament] does reject the project, we will go ahead with formal notification to commence litigation for multiple breaches of international investment treaties for up to $4-billion (U.S.)," CEO Jonathan Henry said in an interview from London, where he is based.

"Our case is very strong and we will make it very public that Romania's effort to attract foreign investment will suffer greatly."

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta said earlier this week that a majority of lawmakers oppose Gabriel's plan to re-open and expand mines in Transylvania exploited by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago.

U.K. jobless rate dips
Britain's unemployment rate is down to 7.7 per cent, the latest economic reading to raise questions about the Bank of England's interest rate pledge.

The jobless rate dipped to that level in the three months ending in July, down from 7.8 per cent in the previous three-month period ending in June, the Office for National Statistics said today.

Under Mark Carney, the central bank has pledged to hold rates down until unemployment eases to 7 per cent, which it doesn't expect to see until late 2016.

"The number has once again drawn into question Mark Carney's pledge to keep rates on hold as far out as 2016, with economic data apparently showing enough improvement to suggest rates will head north much sooner," said Matt Basi of CMC Markets in London.

Is farmland the next bubble?
A new report from BMO Nesbitt Burns looks at the stunning rise in the value of Canadian and U.S. farmland amid concerns that prices may be in bubble territory.

BMO's Aaron Goertzen, however, concludes there won't be a meltdown similar to the one in the 1980s.

"Farmland prices in Canada and the United States have risen explosively since the early 1990s, with dirt on both sides of the 49 parallel up triple digits even after adjusting for inflation," Mr. Goertzen says.

"This meteoric rise has led to some hand-wringing about whether prices have become unhinged from fundamentals, but there are a few good reasons not to be the farm on another 1980s-style crash."

Mr. Goertzen points to the gains in farm productivity in the past several decades. He also cites a rise in demand for food around the world and soaring production of biofuel that have "roughly doubled agricultural commodity prices over the past decade or so."

Low borrowing costs have also held down financing costs.

"Over all," farmland's solid earning potential and low financing cost make current prices look roughly 'worth it' (at least at current low rates," Mr. Goertzen says.

"Although rising longer-term interest rates will likely lead to some backtracking over the next few years, sturdier farm balance sheets should help prevent a 1980s-style cycle of plummeting farmland prices and soaring farm bankruptcies," he adds in his research note.

"However, heightened concern would be warranted if farmland were to continue its skyward path over the next few years."

(For Mr. Goertzen's research, see the accompanying infographic or click here.)

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