Condo ownership up in Ottawa but still below other Canadian cities

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Condominiums accounted for 16.3 per cent of owner-occupied households in Ottawa in 2011, according to a new report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. that provides a window into condo ownership in the capital.

By Jacob Serebrin

That’s slightly below the average for large metropolitan areas in Canada, of 17.3 per cent, but it is above the national average of 12.6 per cent.

It’s also significantly higher than on the Quebec side of the National Capital Region. In Gatineau, condos accounted for 7.9 per cent of owner-occupied households.

Those percentages are trending higher. Between 1996 and 2012 condos accounted for 20 per cent of the growth in homeownership in Ottawa and 15 per cent of the growth in homeownership in Gatineau. That’s below the Canadian average of around 27 per cent.    

And even more condos are going up. Forty per cent of housing starts in Ottawa in 2012 were condos. That’s compared to 10 per cent for purpose-built apartment buildings and 50 per cent for freehold homes.

Many of those new condo units will end up for rent. In October 2012, 20.7 per cent of condos in Ottawa were for rent, compared to 19.3 per cent during the same period the year before.

The vacancy rate for rental condos also increased in 2012, going up to 3.2 per cent from 1.4 per cent the year before.

Across the country, between 1981 and 2011 the number of owner-occupied condos increased nine times faster than any other category of owner-occupied dwelling, going from 171,000 to 1,154,000.

According to the CMHC, the growing interest in condos is being driven, in part, by lower costs.

While condos in Ottawa are less expensive than detached homes – as is the case across the country – the marginal price difference is smaller in Ottawa compared to other large cities. Locally, a detached home costs around 1.5 times the price of a condo. That’s lower than Vancouver, where detached homes are almost 2.5 times the price of a condo and Toronto, where a detached home is just under twice the price of a condo.

But condos also have a lower resale value in Ottawa. The average condo resells for $100,000 less than the average stand-alone home.

While condos are popular with every age group, according to the CMHC report they’re particularly popular with seniors. Almost 50 per cent of housing purchased by seniors in Ottawa are condos.

While the CMHC expects condos to continue to show the “the fastest pace of growth of all dwelling categories to 2036,” it also predicts that single family homes will remain the most popular form of dwelling.

But the report does include a warning that current rates might not continue.

“Households today have significantly higher rates of condominium ownership than earlier generations when they were of comparable age,” the report reads.

“Whether Canadians continue to display an increasing appetite for condominiums remains to be seen. One factor that may ultimately restrain the growth of condominiums is the desire of many aging households to remain in their current homes.”