Canada's Condominium Magazine

Foreign students, temporary workers major impact on rental markets

If you rent a condo, or a basement apartment or flat, to a person between eighteen and forty-four years of age in Toronto or Vancouver, chances are very good that he or she is a non-permanent resident (NPR) of Canada. NPRs, mainly those who are in the country on work or study visas, are a rapidly growing, even essential, component of Canada’s younger population, with growing influence on the economy and the housing market. There are now about 770,000 NPRs in Canada, a record high, and 95 per cent are below the age of forty-five.

Over the past decade, their numbers rose by 450,000, says Benjamin Tal of CIBC World Markets, who calls that rise “meteoric.” They are the fastest growing population segment in the country. There are so many NPRs now that they represent a powerful demographic force, capable of influencing, among other things, the country’s housing market and consumer spending. They should no longer be seen as “marginal and reversible,” Tal argues.

Most significantly, the number of NPRs in the age group 25–44 has doubled in the past ten years in Ontario. In fact, NPRs accounted for all the growth in that “economically important” age group. The number of permanent residents aged 25–44 has actually been declining. If not for the NPRs, that age group would have shrunk by a “dazzling” 120,000 in Ontario. Tal doesn’t have statistics on this, but it is likely that most student visa-holders are renters, not buyers. The same is almost certainly true for temporary workers, though non-permanent residents may buy property in Canada.

It is not a coincidence, says Tal, that Ontario is one of the provinces that has experienced strong housing market activity over the last several years. “It is fair to assume” that NPRs are playing an important role in the rental markets, particularly in condo rentals in Toronto and Vancouver, he says.

Tal concludes from his look at the statistics that there are too many NPRs, wielding too much economic clout, to ignore. He projects that when the final numbers for 2014 are tallied, the total number of NPRs in the country will have increased by a further 8 per cent, putting the total at about 830,000. He cautions that any policy action aimed at limiting growth in this category should be supplemented by an offsetting boost to immigration policies.

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