Demographia Housing Affordability in Canada assesses middle-income housing affordability (Section 1) using the Median Multiple,” which is the market rate median house price divided by the pre-tax median household income (gross income).
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The Median Multiple is widely used for evaluating housing markets. It has been recommended by the World Bank and the United Nations and has been used by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. The Median Multiple and other price-to-income multiples (housing affordability multiples) are used to compare housing affordability between markets by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Monetary Fund, The Economist, and other organizations.
Historically, liberally regulated markets have exhibited median house prices that are three times or less that of median household incomes (a Median Multiple of 3.0 or less). Demographia uses the housing affordability ratings in Table 1.
Housing Affordability in Canada: The Context
Among the major markets, housing remained comparatively affordable from 1970 to the mid-2000s, though the Vancouver market had become severely unaffordable. Since then, however, housing affordability has deteriorated materially. Housing was generally affordable in Canada’s as late as the mid-2000s. For example, house prices have increased the equivalent of 7.7 years of median household income in Vancouver from 2004/2005 and 6.0 years in Toronto.
House price increases have been substantial in the other major markets. Montreal and Ottawa-Gatineau house prices have increased the equivalent of more than two years of annual median household income. Calgary and Edmonton, prices rose about the equivalent of one year.
Wendell Cox is principal of Wendell Cox Consultancy (Demographia) in the St. Louis, Missouri-Illinois metropolitan area. He is co-author of the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, which is has been published in 16 annual editions. He was appointed to three terms as a board member representing the city of Los Angeles on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (LACTC), which oversaw transit and highway policy in the most populous county in the United States. LACTC was succeeded by the present Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Government from California State University in Los Angeles and an MBA from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.