In the first post on this website I described how the Census counts the total number of dwellings and households, and how one household equals one dwelling (the number of unoccupied dwellings, those without a household, is too small to take much notice of). In this post I want to see how the total number of households has grown over time compared to total population growth.
The chart below compares percentage population growth and household growth from 2011 to 2016, sorted from highest population growth to lowest, for Ontario’s ten largest cities. The 2016 Census is the most recent available; the next Census will be conducted in 2020.
Looking at the chart it becomes clear that cities can be separated into three rough categories. In the first category there is Brampton, which had higher percentage population growth than household growth, which means that on average the size of households increased (household size is defined as the number of persons per household). In the second category there is Kitchener and Ottawa which had more or less the same percentage growth in population and number of households.
In the third category are the remaining seven cities, all of which experienced higher percentage growth in households than population. This means that in these cities not only were new households being formed as population grew, but that the size of households shrank.
How can we interpret this? In cities where household growth was higher than population growth it is reasonable to assume that enough housing units were constructed to allow population to disperse and form new households. Conversely, where population growth was higher than household growth it is reasonable to assume the housing supply is pinched. How true is this? I don’t have detailed enough data to confirm if these assumptions are correct, but if I was a developer trying to decide what cities to target I’d focus on cities with higher population growth than household growth, since those cities are probably undersupplied with housing. Critics might say it would be better to focus on cities where household size is shrinking, since that means greater household formation and demand for housing, but given that average household size has been shrinking for several Census cycles, and as far as I know isn’t showing signs of reversing, I think it’s better to focus on building housing in cities where household size is growing since it’s countertrend to province-wide demographic data and it’s likely where demand for new housing is strongest.