Toronto, Montreal’s population is declining as urban flight accelerates

People walk in downtown Montreal, Quebec, October 20, 2021. (Christinne Muschi / The Globe and Mail)Christinne Muschi / The Globe and Mail

The population of Toronto and Montreal fell over part of the pandemic as immigration slowed and more residents fled these cities for cheaper housing markets.

During the year ending July 1, 2021, Toronto saw its population decline by about 16,600 and Montreal by about 46,700, according to estimates published Thursday by Statistics Canada. Including surrounding cities, the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) managed to grow – albeit at its slowest pace in at least two decades – while the Montreal area still declined.

Overall, the population living in Canada’s metropolitan areas grew by only 0.5 percent and was surpassed by the expansion of rural residents for the first time on record.

The numbers seem to confirm the anecdotes: During the pandemic, a significant number of Canadians have chosen to flee major cities, whether they want to ride out the health crisis in safer locations, or because affordability has eroded significantly in many parts of the country.

In addition, the embrace of telework has redrawn the boundaries of where Canadians can live and unlock new opportunities for home ownership. But that shift has also brought volatility to remote communities that were once immune to bidding wars and six-figure price gains.

“These estimates, the first to give us a look at a sub-provincial level in a full year of the COVID-19 pandemic, tell of an accelerating trend in migration from major urban centers, leaving their continued growth largely supported by international migration. , “Statscan said Thursday.

Urban emigration is acute in Toronto and Montreal.

Over the past year, the Toronto area experienced a net intraprovincial outflow of about 64,100 – meaning 64,100 more people left Toronto for other parts of Ontario than they moved in. Meanwhile, Montreal experienced a net intraprovincial outflow of nearly 40,000 people.

The Toronto and Montreal areas have always experienced annual intraprovincial losses over the past 20 years. (Instead, their population growth is largely driven by immigration.) However, outflow has recently accelerated to record highs. And there is an increase in departures of children and 30, suggesting that young families are being priced out of home ownership.

Well helped by the bottom of mortgage rates, the real estate market ignited over the pandemic, with sales and prices jumping to record highs in many markets. In the Toronto area, the average selling price of about $ 1.2 million in December had risen 38 percent from two years earlier. The benchmark housing price in the Montreal region has risen 21 percent over the past year.

Conversely, some areas have significant population growth. Kelowna, BC, saw its population grow 2.6 percent (or nearly 6,000) over the past year, the fastest pace out of Canada’s 35 CMAs. Oshawa grew 2.3 percent and Halifax by 2 percent.

Among smaller towns and cities, population growth was particularly sharp in Collingwood and Wasaga Beach, about two hours north of Toronto; Langford, BC, which is part of Greater Victoria; and several locations within driving distance of Montreal and Quebec City.

The downside is that house prices are rising rapidly in formerly affordable shelters. Benchmark Housing Price in Bancroft, Ont. – about a three-hour drive northeast of Toronto – has risen 47 percent (or about $ 150,000) over the past year alone. In the Moncton area, the typical house price has risen by 37 percent over that period.

For much of the last two decades, Hamilton has attracted a net influx of Ontarians, with numbers growing in the 2010s as Toronto became more and more unaffordable. Now the average price of a detached house in the city is approaching 1 million dollars – an increase of 28 percent compared to last year.

“You have Hamilton buyers now going to Brantford or Paris or Niagara Falls, or out to [U.S.] limit. They have been financially displaced by buyers from the east “for Hamilton, especially those from Toronto,” said Drew Woolcott, a longtime real estate agent in the area.

“Rural areas or smaller towns that were typically far out of the reach of the Toronto dollar [have] now been affected by it, ”added Mr. Woolcott.

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