Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The numbers game: housing trends across Canada

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There has been a flurry of information regarding housing trends that has come across my desk recently, and I wanted to share some of it in order to explain what we see in Manitoba.

Many people think that seniors are selling their current homes, buying new ones without a mortgage and pocketing the difference. Although the need for a mortgage is much less with the older population, there still is financing occurring.

To no one's surprise, 91 per cent of those under 35 and 85 per cent of those from 35 to 49 years of age take out a mortgage. However, one might be surprised to learn that 48 per cent of new-home buyers aged 50 to 64 and 25 per cent of those over 65 are financing at least part of the purchase with a mortgage.

This might just be smart financial planning given current low interest rates, a matter of cash flow or a necessity.

Single detached new homes in British Columbia are significantly larger than elsewhere in Canada, especially in the prairies. The average single-family detached new home in B.C. is 2,500 square feet, compared to the Canadian average of 2,000. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the average new home is under 1,500 square feet.

There have been rumblings out east regarding the reliability of jobs data. One of the primary concerns is that the numbers are extremely vague. For instance, we may hear that employment has increased by 10,000. However, does that mean that 10,000 new jobs were created and everyone else is still employed, or does it mean that 20,000 lost their jobs while 30,000 different people got new jobs?

There is also concern that little detail accompanies these numbers. For instance, are there certain types of jobs that are being created and in current demand, while other sectors are declining and losing jobs?

Citing geographic centres that are short certain types of workers would also be helpful to those seeking employment. For instance, in Alberta, are the job vacancies in the major urban centres of Calgary and Edmonton, or are they concentrated in Fort McMurray?

Employment continually increases, but so does population, so the numbers are a bit deceiving. Unemployment remains low but, if many in the 18-to-30 age group are still living with their parents, thereby reducing their living costs, are they unemployed or just under-employed?

Employment statistics are very important, but frequently vague and confusing. The complaint being voiced in some Ontario publications is that one can make these numbers say anything one wants and the true message is being muddied.

Mike Moore is the president of the Manitoba Home Builders' Association.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2014 F8

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