Skip to main content

The impacts of housing affordability on the household formation and homeownership of immigrant groups in Canada


Rising housing costs pose challenges for Canadians trying to form independent households, particularly for those that wish to own their home rather than rent it. This is especially true for immigrants, who have had lower homeownership rates than the Canadian-born since the 1980s. This paper investigates the impacts of housing affordability and the three elements of the housing pathways framework—economic resources, family composition, and cultural variations—on household formation and homeownership differences between five racialized immigrant groups and the Canadian-born. Using Public Use Census data and a “difference in difference” analytical approach, we assess the housing progress of six groups (five foreign-born, one native-born) between 2006 and 2016. We find that housing affordability does not hinder immigrants in forming independent households, suggesting that many immigrants may be willing to earmark a greater share of their incomes to live independently in either rented or owned accommodations. Furthermore, we show that, even after controlling for a range of socioeconomic factors related to housing pathways, residential choices remain largely unexplained, both within and across groups.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Data availability

Data are available through the Data Liberation Initiative of Statistics Canada.

Code availability

Available upon request.


  • Alba, R. D., & Logan, J. R. (1992). Assimilation and stratification in the homeownership patterns of racial and ethnic groups. The International Migration Review, 26, 1314–1341.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Alesina, A. & Giuliano, P. (2013) Family ties. Institute for the Study of Labor Discussion Paper No. 7376, April.

  • Beer, A., Faulkner, D., Paris C., & Clower, T. (2011) Housing Transitions through the Life Course: Aspirations, Needs and Policy (Bristol, UK: The Policy Press).

  • Borjas, G. (2002). Homeownership in the immigrant population. Journal of Urban Economics, 52, 448–476.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bull, M. & Gross, A. (2018) Housing and culture, in: Housing in America (New York: Routledge).

  • Byrne, D., Duffy, D., & FitzGerald, J. (2018). Household formation and tenure choice: Did the Great Irish Housing Bust alter consumer behaviour? The Economic and Social Review, 49(3), 287–317.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carpusor, A. G., & Loges, W. E. (2006). Rental discrimination and ethnicity in names. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36(4), 934–952.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chakrabarty, D., Osei, M. J., Winters, J. V., & Zhao, D. (2019). Which immigrant and minority homeownership rates are gaining ground in the US? Journal of Economics and Finance, 43, 273–297.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chang, W. (2013). Family ties, living arrangement, and marital satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 215–233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Choi, J., Zhu, J., Goodman, L., Ganesh, B., & Strochak, S. (2018) Millennial Homeownership: Why Is It So Low, and How Can We Increase It? (Washington, DC: Urban Institute). Available at

  • Clapham, D. (2002). Housing pathways: A post modern analytical framework. Housing, Theory and Society, 19(2), 57–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clark, W. A. V., & Huang, Y. (2003). The life course and residential mobility in British housing markets. Environment and Planning A, 35, 323–339.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clark, W. A. V., & Davies Withers, S. (2007). Family migration and mobility sequences in the United States: Spatial mobility in the context of the life course. Demographic Research, 17(20), 591–622.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • CMHC. (2011). Appendix 2: Household Income, Costs and STIRs of Visible Minority Households [Data file]. Available at

  • CMHC. (2020) Housing Market Information Portal [Data file]. Available at

  • Engeland, J., Figueroa, R., Rea W., & Yuen, J. (2008) The dynamics of housing affordability, Income Research Paper Series - Catalogue No. 75F0002M – No. 001. (Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada). Available at

  • Feijten, P., & van Ham, M. (2010). The impact of splitting up and divorce on housing careers in the UK. Housing Studies, 25, 483–507.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Flanagan, C. & Wilson, E. (2013) Home Value and Homeownership Rates: Recession and Post-Recession Comparisons from 2007–2009 to 2010–2012. (U.S. Census Bureau). Available at

  • Flippen, C. A. (2001). Racial and ethnic inequality in homeownership and housing equity. The Sociological Quarterly, 42(2), 121–149.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gould, E. (2015) 2014 Continues a 35-year Trend of Broad-based Wage Stagnation. Economic Policy Institute Issue Brief, No. 393. Available at

  • Grinstein-Weiss, M., Charles, P., Guo, S., Manturuk, K., & Key, C. (2011). The effect of marital status on home ownership among low-income households. Social Service Review, 85(3), 475–503.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haan, M. (2005). The decline of the immigrant homeownership advantage: Life-cycle, declining fortunes and changing housing careers in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, 1981–2001. Urban Studies, 49(12), 2191–2212.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haan, M., & Cardoso, M. (2020). Job Changing and internal mobility: Insights into the “declining duo” from Canadian administrative data. Population, Space, and Place, 26(5), 1–16.

  • Henderson, J. V., & Ioannides, Y. M. (1983). A model of housing tenure choice. American Economic Review, 73(1), 98–113.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kendig, H. L. (1984). Housing careers, life cycle and residential mobility: Implication for the housing market. Urban Studies, 21, 271–283.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Manacorda, M., & Moretti, E. (2006). Why do most Italian youths live with their parents? Intergenerational transfers and household structure. Journal of the European Economic Association, 4(4), 800–829.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Massey, D. S., & Lundy, G. (2001). Use of Black English and racial discrimination in urban housing markets: New methods and findings. Urban Affairs Review, 36(4), 452–469.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McCabe, B. J. (2018). Why buy a home? Race, Ethnicity, and Homeownership Preferences in the United States. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 4(4), 452–472.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Molina, E. T. (2017) Housing affordability. In: Housing America: Issues and Debates, pp. 12–48 (New York: Routledge).

  • Moore, E., & Skaburskis, A. (2004). Canada’s increasing housing affordability burdens. Housing Studies, 19, 395–413.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morissette, R. (2019) The wealth of immigrant families in Canada, Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series - Catalogue no. 11F0019M - No. 422. (Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada). Available at

  • Morrow-Jones, H. A., & Wenning, M. V. (2005). The housing ladder, the housing life-cycle and housing life-course: Upward and downward movement among repeat home-buyers in a US metropolitan housing market. Urban Studies, 42(10), 1739–1754.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mulder, C. H., & Lauster, N. T. (2010). Housing and family: An introduction. Housing Studies, 25(4), 433–440.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Murdie, R. A., Chambon, A. S., Hulchanski, J. D., & Teixeira, C. (1999). Differential Incorporation and Housing Trajectories of Recent Immigrant Households: Towards a Conceptual Framework. Housing New Canadians Research Working Group Discussion Paper.

  • Myers, D. (1992) Analysis with Local Census Data: Portraits of Change (Academic Press).

  • Myers, D., Baer, W. C., & Choi, S. Y. (1996). The changing problem of overcrowded housing. Journal of Housing Research, 9, 237–269.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • OECD. (2015) Characteristics of immigrant households. In: Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015: Settling In, pp. 71–78 (Paris: OECD Publishing).

  • Özüekren, A. S., & Van Kempen, R. (2002). Housing careers of minority ethnic groups: Experiences, explanations and prospects. Housing Studies, 17(3), 365–379.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Setterston, R. A., & Ray, B. (2010). What’s going on with young people today? The Long and Twisting Path to Adulthood. The Future of Children, 20(1), 19–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Statistic Canada. (2017) Housing in Canada: Key results from the 2016 Census. The Daily. Available at

  • Statistics Canada. (2020a) Table 11–10–0190–01: Market Income, Government Transfers, Total Income, Income Tax and After-tax Income by Economic Family Type [Data file]. Available at

  • Statistics Canada. (2020b) Table 14-10-0083-01: Labour Force Characteristics by Immigrant Status, Annual [Data file]. Available at

  • Swee, J. A. (1990). Changes in the life-cycle composition of the United States population and the demand for housing. In D. Myers (Ed.), Housing Demography: Linking Demographic Structure and Housing Markets (pp. 35–61). University of Wisconsin Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yssaad, L., & Fields, A. (2018). The Canadian immigrant labour market: Recent trends from 2006 to 2017, Catalogue No. 71–606-X. Statistics Canada.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yu, Z., & Myers, D. (2010). Misleading comparisons of homeownership rates when the variable effect of household formation is ignored: Explaining rising homeownership and the homeownership gap between Blacks and Asians in the US. Urban Studies, 47, 2615–2640.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


Not applicable.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael Haan.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cheng, W., Haan, M. The impacts of housing affordability on the household formation and homeownership of immigrant groups in Canada. J Hous and the Built Environ (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Housing affordability
  • Immigrants
  • Household formation
  • Homeownership