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Bridge Beat

Mar 23, 2012

Continued Growth in the GTA

On March 21, 2012, I attended the Hi-Rise Forum at BILD where the guest speaker, Jeanhy Shim with Mattamy Homes Limited, discussed her analysis of the 2011 census data figures as released by Statistics Canada.   Nationwide, Canada was the fastest growing country among the G8 with a population in 2011 of 33,476,688.  Although it is the country with the least overall population among the G8, immigration and strong economy (relatively speaking) continue to drive population growth.   Ms. Shim highlighted the shift in population growth towards the Western provinces, especially in cities that are natural resource rich, compared to Ontario which grew at 5.7%, slower than the national average of 5.9%.  Nevertheless, it was Milton and Whitchurch-Stouffville, both in Ontario, which were among the nation’s fastest growing municipalities between 2006 (the year of the last census) and 2011. Milton’s population grew by 56.5% to 84,362 in 2011 and Whitchurch-Stoufville, had a population growth of 54.3% to 37,628.   The GTA grew by 5.1 per cent between 2006 and 2011 to a population of almost 5.6 million which is an increase of more than 477,000 people. Ms. Shim pointed out that the suburbs such as Ajax, Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Brampton continue to experience strong growth.   The City of Toronto (area code 416) experienced a growth of 4.6% whereas the suburbs (905 area code) experienced a growth of 14.0%.   In terms of new housing, the old City of Toronto saw the largest increase in the number of new dwellings of 69,527 new homes over the period of 2006-2011.   Toronto’s Downtown West (which includes CityPlace and Liberty Village) was the fastest growing neighbourhood in the City of Toronto.  Ms. Shim noted several interesting facts that would be of interest to those looking for development opportunity: firstly, the average residents per dwelling fell from 1.9 (in 2006) to 1.4 (in 2011) confirming that it is usually single professionals who are living in the condos and secondly, that while the number of residential development has risen, businesses have not followed pace, particularly, grocery stores and retail businesses.  Developers that can combine residential and commercial development suitable to attract big-box stores may find a great opportunity in neighbourhoods like Downtown West.   Ms. Shim also reported figures that were not part of the census but should be taken into account by those who want to understand the real makeup of the City’s residents and that is the 54,115 foreign temporary workers and the 57,850 foreign students living in Toronto.  Temporary workers and foreign students may not be buying homes, however, many are renting homes and luxury condos and contributing to the overall economy of the City (and the rest of Canada).  She also pointed out that net immigration to the GTA has fallen from 125,000/year in 2001 to 78,000 in 2011.  That still represents a significant inflow of people into the GTA requiring housing.   Overall, major Canadian cities and in particular, Toronto and the GTA seem poised to grow their population as Canada’s stable economy and government continue to attract immigrants and other persons requiring either rental or owner occupied housing.

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