House prices, and changes in house prices, are usually the main subjects of discussion when it comes to real estate. But what about living areas? Do the sizes of living areas in residential properties differ by period of construction, and by how much?

Our latest Housing Market Insight (HMI) offers new detail on living area sizes for certain residential property types in British Columbia (B.C.), Nova Scotia and Ontario. The data, obtained through our continuing partnership with Statistics Canada, shows how living areas differ by period of construction. Studying these differences can, in turn, tell us about the future suitability of the housing stock.

Highlights on living areas

Here’s a snapshot of what we found out about living areas in B.C., Nova Scotia and Ontario:

  • The median living areas in Ontario and British Columbia are lower for properties built since 2006. This is because of shifts in the housing stock toward more compact multiple-unit dwellings (particularly condominium apartments).
  • In Nova Scotia, the median living area has remained relatively unchanged for residential properties built since 2006. Why? The majority of the province’s housing stock consists of single-detached homes. There’s been only a slight shift of the housing stock toward more multiple-unit dwellings.
  • In Toronto and Vancouver, condominium apartment units built since 2006 are smaller, while their assessment value per square foot is higher. In comparison, newly built single-detached properties are larger, while their assessment value per square foot is lower.

Affordability concerns and migration contributing to smaller condominium apartments

Toronto and Vancouver have the largest share of condominium apartment units in their respective provinces. The median size of a condominium apartment built in 2016 or 2017 in the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA) is 650 square feet. In the Vancouver CMA, it’s 770 square feet.

For the same unit type built between 1981 and 1990, the median size is 1,070 square feet in the Toronto CMA. In the Vancouver CMA, it’s 915 square feet. Why have condominium apartments gotten smaller?

Well, immigration and income growth have increased housing demand in Toronto and Vancouver. This increased demand has put greater density pressure on the CMAs.

Condominium apartments have also been getting smaller as a result of developers’ efforts to maintain a certain level of affordability for homebuyers. Despite increasing values per square foot, condominium apartments usually have lower prices than other housing types in Toronto and Vancouver. They are therefore the easiest entry point into homeownership for first-time buyers.

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Date Published: May 3, 2019