ARCHIVED – Portrait of an Integration Process

Finding housing

Most immigrants did not encounter difficulties finding housing

The proportion of immigrants who did not encounter problems or difficulties increased over time. At the third wave interview, 4 years after arrival, more than eight in ten (83%) of the 67,500 immigrants who had tried to find housing did not report any difficulties, compared with the first two waves (62% at 6 months after arrival and 75% at 2 years after landing). The LSIC newcomers were less likely to report difficulties finding housing than any other task examined. The proportion of family class immigrants looking for housing was the lowest among all the immigration categories throughout the 4 years. Among the newcomers who had looked for housing, family class and other economic immigrants were less likely to report difficulties. In contrast, refugees faced more problems compared to immigrants in other categories.

Table 7: Involvement and incidence of problems finding housing - Wave 1, 2, and 3

Selected types of unmet needs Immigration Category
Family Class Skilled Workers (PA) Skilled Workers (S&D) Other Economic Refugees All Immigrants3
All immigrants 42,615 54,527 40,016 9,835 9,741 157,615
Immigrants who had looked for housing – Wave 11 42% 91% 90% 90% 83% 77%
Immigrants who had looked for housing – Wave 21 37% 63% 61% 46% 56% 54%
Immigrants who had looked for housing – Wave 31 33% 49% 46% 35% 47% 43%
Immigrants who had problems finding housing – Wave 12 14% 44% 45% 27% 40% 38%
Immigrants who had problems finding housing – Wave 22 19% 26% 28% 14% 37% 25%
Immigrants who had problems finding housing – Wave 32 16% 16% 18% 14% 29% 17%

1Percentages are based on all LSIC immigrants.

2Percentages are based on immigrants who had looked for housing.

3All immigrants include a small number of immigrants who landed in the classes other than those mentioned in the table.

Source: Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada - Wave 3, 2005.

Home ownership rate increased substantially over time

The rate of home ownership increased substantially with time spent in Canada. At 6 months after landing, only 1 in 5 (20%) immigrants owned their homes.1 Four years after their arrival, over half (51%) of the LSIC newcomers owned their homes, closer to the Canadian average rate of home ownership.2 Although housing demand is driven by multiple factors such as household structure, income, local affordability as well as traditional attitude towards residence, one determining factor of home ownership is labour market status. Thus it is not surprising to see matching trends shown by home ownership and labour market performance. For instance, there was a steadily increasing proportion of economic immigrants buying houses over time. Refugees had the smallest increase in home ownership rates over the 4 years in Canada.

Progress also differed across province of residence. Immigrants living in Quebec were least likely to buy residences at different points in time (Figure 12). Consistent with the economic performance across provinces, newcomers who went to Alberta exhibited stronger purchasing power for homes throughout the first 4 years in Canada.  These situations may be related to a combination of factors that include housing affordability and the labour market performance of the LSIC immigrants in Quebec.

Figure 12: Home ownership rate by province – Wave 1, 2, and 3

Figure 12: Home ownership rate by province – Wave 1, 2, and 3

Housing costs was the most pronounced difficulty in finding housing at any point in time

Financial constraints was the most cited barrier in finding housing at any point in time and increased over time (31%, 41% and 56% of immigrants who had reported problems in getting housing at 6 months, 2 years and 4 years after landing). Lack of suitable accommodation and low vacancies were the other two persistent obstacles faced by newcomers in the initial years following their arrival. Not surprisingly, lack of credit dropped out of the top 3 difficulties accessing housing after 6 months in Canada.

About one in five (18%) immigrants who had difficulties finding housing reported they had received assistance between the 2nd and 3rd wave. Newcomers were less likely to get help with problems finding housing over time. This trend was consistent across all immigration categories. It could possibly be explained by declined needs for assistance and the proportion of immigrants claiming unmet needs lend some evidence to it. Among the newcomers who had encountered difficulties finding housing, 21% reported not receiving help needed, which did not vary much relative to 25% at 6 months after arrival and 19% at 2 years after landing. The slight decrease in the percentage of immigrants claiming unmet needs may reflect some progress in meeting newcomers’ accommodation requirements.

Friends helped out in finding housing

Friends were the dominating source of help for difficulties in finding housing throughout the four years (Figure 13). The reliance on relatives and family members tended to decline with time while the role of government agencies increased. Immigrants who received help for housing problems cited real estate agents and banks or financial agents as an increasing source of assistance. Between the 2nd and 4th year after arrival, bank or financial agents (20%) ranked the 3rd most cited source of help for difficulties in getting housing, followed by real estate agent (13%). This was likely associated with the increase in the rate of home ownership with the increased time spent in Canada. As newcomers started to purchase their own property, it was natural for them to go to real estate agent for information, consulting services and to financial institutions for borrowing.

Figure 13: Main sources of help for the most serious problem in finding housing — Wave 1, 2, and 3

Figure 13: Main sources of help for the most serious problem in finding housing — Wave 1, 2, and 3

Financial aid, information and advice or counselling ranked as the top 3 unmet needs cited by immigrants who reported not receiving help needed. This was persistent across time and immigration categories. By the end of the 4th year in Canada, of immigrants who reported unmet needs for housing problems, almost half (47%) mentioned needing financial help and 38% needed information.


1Ownership includes those owned with mortgage or owned without mortgage.

2By 2001, the average home ownership rate in Canada was 65.8%. Source: Canadian Housing Observer, CMHC, Ottawa.

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