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Dreaming about the unattainable

Airdrie opinion_text

I’ve always loved house hunting, whether it’s scouring rental/real estate listings for the perfect home, visiting open houses or just watching shows like House Hunters International and Log Cabin Living – although the type of property I prefer isn’t exactly what the people on those shows are typically looking for. Recently, I’ve started following a few Instagram accounts catered to those more specific interests, which feature heritage home listings with beautiful photo galleries.

But I’m part of a generation of perennial renters, according to Abacus Data, an Ontario research and strategy firm. Only 27 per cent of millennials own the homes they live in. And, while 80 per cent hope to eventually become homeowners, just 43 per cent plan to buy a house within the next five years. For most of us, it’s an unattainable dream – but it’s one our parents are pushing hard.

Not my parents, to be fair. But according to millennial finance expert Bridget Casey, “Boomers are the reason for this, and they’re the ultimate enablers. They’ve instilled these values in us because homeownership worked out so well for them, and now we’ve been taught to strive for it.”

The Globe and Mail reported in October 2019, the past two decades of rising home prices have provided older Canadians with a “retirement windfall” – leaving homeownership “increasingly out of reach” for the younger generation. Economist David Macdonald told Vice his research suggests the people who benefitted the most from the run-up in property value are those who bought their homes before the late 1990s.

Additionally, Vice reported, a comparison of inflation-adjusted net worth indicates millennials in their 30s are “less well-off than people who were in their 30s in 1999.” According to Macdonald, “that’s a direct result of the fact that it’s much more expensive to get into the real estate market. You have to take on much more debt and you have much less equity.”

And millennials already have more debt. We’re a generation that had to invest in post-secondary education, because we were told we were unhireable without a degree – meaning that as tuition fees have jumped by more than 40 per cent since the late 1990s, according to Statistics Canada, we’ve had no choice but to pay them.

With the average home in Canada listed on MLS priced at $455,000, potential homeowners are faced with a minimum down payment of around $23,000. Abacus Data reports that this figure is unattainable for nearly three-quarters of millennials across the country, who have an income of around $75,000 and a savings account of just $10,000.

So, maybe I’ll never be able to own a heritage home of my own, with original crown moulding, leaded windows and a vestibule. But thanks to @vintagehouses.ca, I can dream about it.