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Families, households and housing

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Households have been shrinking over the past two decades and it is no surprise why: fewer people are living in large families, and more people are living alone. Families comprising couples without children outnumber those with children, and the proportion of married couples has been on the decline. Most Canadians still own their home, increasingly a condominium.

Household size is shrinking

There were 12.4 million households in Canada in 2006: 27% consisted of one person, while 9% were made up of five or more people. That makes three times as many one-person households as large households with five or more people.

From 2001 to 2006, the number of one-person households increased 12%, to reach 3.3 million. This growth continues a trend: the proportion of one-person households first surpassed that of large households in 1981.

The shrinking size of households can be attributed to several reasons including the aging baby boomers, whose adult children may have moved out, and to Generation X who are fewer in number and have lower fertility rates. In addition, smaller households may also result from increased divorce and separation rates, as well as more seniors living alone. Seniors aged 65 and older represented 34% of people who lived alone in 2006.

In 2006, for the first time ever, census families comprising couples without children outnumbered those with children. (A census family is comprised of a married or a common-law couple with or without children, or a lone parent and at least one child in the home. Children in the home are defined as people younger than 25.)

Couples without children living at home accounted for 43% of census families in 2006, whereas couples with children accounted for 41%. In 1986, the proportions were 35% and 52%, respectively.

More than two out of three households owned their dwelling in 2006, the highest rate of home ownership since at least 1971. Of the 12.4 million households in Canada, 8.5 million owned their home.

Homeownership is rising

The increase from 2001 to 2007 continues the long-term trend of rising homeownership that began in 1991, after a period of low growth during the 1980s.

Households in the Atlantic provinces continue to have the highest homeownership rates in the country, with households in Newfoundland and Labrador ranking first, at 77%. Households in Quebec have the lowest, at 59%. This continues patterns in effect since at least 1971.

The homeownership rate for one-person households in 2006 was well below the national average but increased at a faster than average pace. Just under half (48%) of those who were living alone in 2006 owned their home, up from 44% in 2001. Nearly 6 out of 10 households (58%) that owned their home in 2006 had a mortgage. This is slightly higher than in 1981, when baby boomers were entering the housing market, and it marks an increase from 55% in 2001.

From 2001 to 2006, shelter costs for owner households climbed 22%, while shelter costs for renters rose 13% (both increases are based on current dollars).