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Canada's housing crisis has nearly 40% of immigrants considering moving: Poll

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA - 2024/06/12: A group of residential buildings under construction. Housing in one of the main challenges the Canadian government is facing. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)
The percentage of people who agreed or strongly agreed that they were “seriously thinking of leaving” their province because of housing costs was 44 per cent in both central and suburban Toronto. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images) (Roberto Machado Noa via Getty Images)

Canada’s reputation as a welcoming country for newcomers could be at risk with the ongoing housing affordability crisis hitting immigrants hardest of all, a new Angus Reid survey says.

The survey found that 28 per cent of Canadians are seriously considering leaving their province because housing costs are too high. That number climbs to 39 per cent among people who have lived in Canada for 10 years or less.

“As more immigrants seek the Canadian dream from abroad, many who arrived in recent years have discovered less of a dream and more of a nightmare,” the report said.

For immigrants who have lived in Canada for 11 or more years, the proportion considering leaving their province is 30 per cent, closer to the overall average.

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The survey, which canvassed 4,204 Canadians in mid-June, showed levels of discontent that largely align with Canadian cities’ respective housing costs, and also found that a slight majority of respondents are hopeful that the affordability situation will improve in “the next few years.”

Home prices in many Canadian cities have climbed steeply in recent years, and vacancy rates for rental units have reached extreme lows, with economists warning the crisis could reach “even more alarming levels” in the years ahead without a major increase in new construction. A recent boom in population growth has contributed to the issue — but leaders have sparred over the extent, noting chronic labour shortages and higher interest rates among other contributing factors.

The survey results follow other recent data that suggest a possible erosion of Canada’s status as a “role model for successful migration management,” according to the OECD. Statistics Canada reported earlier this year that the citizenship rate among recent immigrants dropped from 75.4 per cent in 1996 to 45.7 per cent in 2021. Though some of that decline is likely due to pandemic restrictions, the agency writes, “even after accounting for the pandemic effect, the citizenship rate declined at a faster pace from 2016 to 2021 than during any other five-year intercensal period since 1996.”

Respondents who live in cities with the highest home prices were most likely to be considering leaving their province, the survey found. The percentage of people who agreed or strongly agreed that they were “seriously thinking of leaving” their province because of housing costs was 44 per cent in both central and suburban Toronto, and 33 per cent in Vancouver.

At a provincial level, Ontario (39 per cent) and B.C. (36 per cent) had the highest number of respondents thinking of leaving, while Quebec (16 per cent) and Saskatchewan (15 per cent) had the lowest.

Nationwide, among both immigrants and Canada-born respondents, a plurality of those thinking of leaving (45 per cent) would move somewhere else in Canada, with Alberta (18 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (10 per cent) the two most popular destinations. Alberta has seen massive interprovincial migration in recent years, with housing prices more affordable than many other provinces.

A further 15 per cent named the U.S. as their desired destination, 27 per cent a country other than the U.S., and 12 per cent were unsure.

Optimism about improved affordability in the years ahead varied significantly by region. Quebecers were the most pessimistic, with 58 per cent saying they disagree or strongly disagree about being “hopeful that housing affordability will improve over the next few years.” More than half the respondents in other provinces had a positive outlook.

John MacFarlane is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jmacf. Download the Yahoo Finance app, available for Apple and Android.