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Changing Patterns in Canadian Homeownership and Shelter Costs, 2006 Census: Presence of a mortgage

Share of mortgage-free owner households declines

As stated above, the share of owner households with mortgages has not been at such a high level in Canada since 1981. This was when baby boomers were entering the housing market. With the aging of the population and with baby boomers entering their 60s, when mortgages traditionally are paid off, the percentage of households with mortgages could be expected to decline and the percentage that are mortgage-free could be expected to rise. Instead, the reverse occurred between 2001 and 2006.

Most of the increase in the proportion of households with a mortgage was due to renters moving into homeownership, but some can only be accounted for by homeowners taking on new mortgages or adding to existing ones, possibly to finance renovations or other large purchases.1 Between 2001 and 2006, spending on renovations increased 63%, according to Statistics Canada's Flows and Stocks of Fixed Residential Capital (CANSIM table 026-0013).

Another possible explanation is that couples that break up may need to purchase a second dwelling or two smaller or less expensive ones. It is not known how many situations like this there are. Between 2001 and 2006, the share of the population aged 15 and over that was divorced rose from 7.7% to 8.1%. Also during this period, the size of households continued to decline, while the share of one-person households increased.


  1. The census does not follow individual households over time to see how their housing tenure changes. This analysis looks at changes in the shares of households that rented, owned with a mortgage or owned mortgage-free.

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