Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

March 14, 2013 10:39 ET

Housing for Older Canadians: Volume 1 - Understanding the Market. Part Three: What Do Seniors Want in a Home, and What Options are Available to Them?

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 14, 2013) - Canada's seniors are a growing demographic group. If housing developers want to attract this growing segment of the market, they have to understand how seniors' housing and lifestyle preferences will change as they age. To help developers plan to meet the housing needs of older Canadians, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has developed an updated, multi-volume series titled Housing for Older Canadians: The Definitive Guide to the Over-55 Market. The first volume in this series-Understanding the Market-offers a detailed look at the housing needs of older Canadians on both the national and provincial/territorial levels, including a discussion of the housing preferences of Canada's aging population.

Tenure preferences are important to consider. Canadians aged 55 to 64 have the highest rates of homeownership among all age groups; but homeownership decreases with age, as many older seniors downsize to rental apartments or move to retirement homes. This could create opportunities for rental housing providers who build with lifestyle and flexibility in mind.

Ethnicity can also be significant in influencing housing preferences. In general, foreign-born Canadians aged 65 and older are more likely to reside in large urban areas than their Canadian-born counterparts. In 2006, 84% of the foreign-born population aged 65 and older was living in Canada's Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs). By comparison, only 56% of persons aged 65 and older who were born in Canada called one of these CMAs home.

In addition, specific ethnic groups may also have certain community and housing preferences. For example, some may favour centrally-located neighbourhoods and others may prefer suburban communities.
Developers who don't have a thorough understanding of these groups and their housing preferences may be wise to partner with non-profit organizations that represent them. The ethnic diversity of Canada's large cities suggests that there is a market for a wide range of housing options. But understanding the needs of seniors from all ethnicities is vital to the success of any new development.

Access to service and amenities can be a significant factor in seniors' housing choices. To attract older residents, housing providers in rural areas should consider incorporating access to public transportation and other essential services in their community planning. Urban developers, on the other hand, may want to focus on developing housing that is well-located relative to existing services.

Research shows that many Canadians aged 55 and over prefer to remain in their home for as long as possible, even if there are changes in their health. These seniors will need housing options and supports that allow them to age in place and to live independently. As a result, developers should ideally also be building homes that can adapt to changing needs as residents age. Incorporating features that facilitate aging into the original plans of a project can be an important and cost-effective selling feature for home buyers of all ages.

Other volumes of the Guide cover such topics as market analysis, planning and designing seniors' housing, and services and amenities to consider when developing housing geared to seniors.

You can download the CMHC publication Housing for Older Canadians: The Definitive Guide to the Over-55 Market: Volume 1-Understanding the Market, or find information on any aspect of the Canadian housing industry, at For over 65 years, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has been Canada's national housing agency, and a source of objective, reliable housing information.

Contact Information

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