Where diversity is embraced, real estate will thrive

AACI | Vice President, The Regional Group of Companies Inc.
  • Jul. 13, 2017

Have you ever heard of Vanuatu?

John ClarkIt’s a South Pacific Ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands that stretches 1,300 kilometres. Total population is around 265,000.

But even Ni-Vanuatu (that’s what you call someone from Vanuatu) have immigrated to Canada. During Canada Day festivities, my wife and I visited Ottawa City Hall to see the Quilt of Belonging.

This 36-metre collaborative textile project includes 263 blocks that “portray the rich cultural legacies of all the First Peoples in Canada and every nation of the world at the dawn of the new Millennium.”

Why every nation of the world? Because there are immigrants from every nation of the world in Canada.

I also recently attended a citizenship ceremony in which the 150 people taking the Oath of Citizenship hailed from 50-plus countries, or 25 per cent of the world’s countries. That much diversity, in just one ceremony.

This made me consider how the growing diversity of Canada’s population is going to affect the demand for real estate in the future. Because everything effects real estate.

Change is constant

Canada continues to change. I think we are very fortunate to have all these people with different ideas and perspectives. It sparks innovation.

Order of Canada inductee and former NHL great Ken Dryden led the citizenship ceremony. He emphasized that, while we don’t know how the future will unfold, we all have an obligation to get along, as circumstance has required us to in the past, to ensure that future is a positive one.

Women gaining the right to vote, getting legal recognition as persons and entering the workforce after two world wars decimated generations of young men redefined our socio-economic fabric in the 20th Century. The rise of the two-income family propelled consumer buying power, as well as housing demand and prices (whether that was a good thing or not is a separate issue).

Pierre Trudeau evicted the state from the bedrooms of the nation, thereby recognizing gay rights and redefining the traditional family. That liberation also had its impact on real estate, creating a new demographic of homebuyers and two-income households – couples in the LGBTQ community could now openly plan for their future.

And now we have a stagnant and declining birthrate, coupled with fresh influxes of immigrants. Some people say they don’t like immigration because it takes away jobs, but this country’s population has doubled since I was born and somehow we continue to have enough jobs to go around.

Skilled jobs are going unfilled

In fact, a study commissioned by the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance, released last week, stated 65 per cent of the current population of elementary school students will end up in careers that don’t yet exist. The reports also stated up to 41 per cent of Ontario employers would hire more people, if they only had the right skills.

The issue isn’t too many people for too few jobs, it’s too many people without the skills to fill available jobs.

We need more apprenticeship and training – practical forms of education that prepare our young people for careers in those fields desperate for fresh blood. This, too, is where opportunity exists for newcomers. Where they find opportunity will have a corresponding impact on real estate.

The obvious expectation is that they will find those opportunities in one of Canada’s major metropolitan areas. It is certainly true this is where many immigrants end up.

But there is a lot more to Canada than a handful of large urban hubs. Either by choice or necessity due to the cost of living and other factors, newcomers will venture into the hinterlands.

Opportunity drives real estate

I read one story about a family of Syrian refugees who were chocolatiers. They have ended up on Antigonish, N.S., of all places (pop. 4,364) and started up a confectionary business, creating new employment opportunities. When my daughter was teaching in Northern Saskatchewan, she met the owners of the local corner gas – a recently immigrated Chinese family.

People will go where they feel most welcome and where they see opportunity for themselves and their families. As our demographics continue to shift through a combination of an aging boomer population and a declining birth rate, it’s those communities across Canada that are most welcoming and provide the greatest opportunity for new residents that will thrive and see increased real estate demand.

Those that don’t will spiral into the same cycle of decline as other communities that have lost anchor employers and haven’t found a way to reinvent themselves.

Government can help address this by where and how it chooses to invest in skills training and economic development, for the benefit of both individuals and employers. But it depends to an even greater extent on how well each of us is willing to embrace that new neighbour. 

It will be to your benefit, particularly if you live in a stagnant community and want to sell your house.

To discuss this or any other valuation topic in the context of your property, please contact me at [email protected]. I am also interested in your feedback and suggestions for future articles.



John Clark is Vice President with The Regional Group of Companies Inc. He has more than 33 years of experience in the real estate appraisal field, is a fully accredited…

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John Clark is Vice President with The Regional Group of Companies Inc. He has more than 33 years of experience in the real estate appraisal field, is a fully accredited…

Read more

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