Our 2022 Northern Housing Report shows positive economic gains in Canada's 3 northern territories. Even though all 3 territories were hit hard by the pandemic, they’ve seen improvements in their gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021.
A growing mining sector largely drove economic growth. In addition to these gains, the 2021 Census showed improvements.
While there is evidence of economic recovery, the North also faces rising housing prices — as seen in many parts of the country. Both ownership and rental markets saw strong demand and prices reached new highs. Limited housing development in recent years put more pressure on the market housing supply.
The North also continues to face unique challenges that make housing more expensive. High land and labour costs translate to higher housing costs. The lack of available land for new development also adds to the cost of housing.
The lack of housing options across the entire housing continuum in the North means there’s a strong need to develop more affordable housing in the territories.
Our report explores housing market conditions across the 3 major centres in the Territories:
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Evidence of economic recovery in Whitehorse
Between 2016 and 2021, Yukon experienced the highest population growth rate among the country’s provinces and territories. Most of this growth was concentrated in Whitehorse.
Yukon saw the highest relative increase in GDP in Canada in 2021, driven by a growing mining sector.
Economic recovery was reflected in the decreased incidence of core housing need in 2021, meaning there was a decrease in the rate of unaffordable housing in the population. However, the share of the population living in housing needing major repairs or in overcrowded housing increased in both the capital and the territory.
Whitehorse has a very low vacancy rate for private rental market housing. It also had record-high resale prices for single-detached dwellings. In 2021, the average single-detached home price increased by over 14%. The average condominium rose by 9.4% and resale prices for duplexes and mobile homes increased by 19.0% and 21.7%, over the same period.
There were 418 housing starts in Whitehorse in 2021, down from the recent high of 478 units in 2020. This was still the second highest number of starts, dating back to at least the mid-2000s.
An aging population creates unique housing needs in Yellowknife
Just under 50% of the population in the Northwest Territories lives in Yellowknife. The centre’s senior population is growing, creating a significant demand for safe, affordable and accessible housing. With more seniors retiring and looking for suitable housing options, Yellowknife is facing challenges in finding an adequate supply of housing that meets their needs.
Yellowknife faces a higher degree of core housing need than the rest of Canada, especially for seniors and people who identify as Indigenous.
Between 2016 and 2021, homeownership increased in the Northwest Territories, bucking the trend in other parts of the country. In fact, the Northwest Territories was the only territory — or province — with an increased rate of homeownership in the 2021 census. This could be because of economic recovery led by the mining and construction industries, strong labour market conditions and a rush to buy ahead of potential future mortgage rate hikes.
According to the latest data, housing starts plummeted in Yellowknife in 2022. Labor shortages, high construction costs, and rising interest rates were the main reasons for the decrease in housing starts. Changes to zoning bylaws will promote the development of several projects in 2023 and 2024 to help ease supply issues.
Young people in Iqaluit face housing affordability challenges
The high cost of housing in Nunavut has strained many Iqaluit households and there is an urgent need for more affordable homes. This is especially the case for young people.
The high cost of housing has contributed to households experiencing core housing need, with critical difficulties in securing appropriate housing. Nunavut continues to have one of the highest percentages of households in core housing need in Canada. About 33% of households live in unsuitable, inadequate or unaffordable housing and can’t afford alternative housing in their communities.
Higher prices for single-detached and row houses and increased rental costs also contributed to the unaffordability of housing in Iqaluit. High construction costs and the lack of available land continue to limit the construction of new housing supply.