New houses are under construction in a new residential district in Brantford Ontario Canada on a sunny day. (Photo credit: iStock Photo)

April 8, 2024

By Mike Moffatt


The Calculation

In April 2024, the Smart Prosperity Institute published the piece,Ontario's Need for 1.7 Million More Homes, describing how Ontario will need to build 1.7 million homes from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2031, to keep pace with population growth and a pre-existing housing shortage. Our Ontario estimate raises the obvious question: How many homes will the other provinces and territories need to build

Let's answer that question by using the RoCA Benchmark.

In our 2022 paper, Ontario's Need for 1.5 Million More Homes, we developed the RoCA Benchmark, a method of converting population by age totals into a number of households (thereby creating a crude measure of housing demand). The RoCA Benchmark is defined as follows.1

RoCA Benchmark Number of Households (Definition): The number of households a community would have, given the size of their population if their age-adjusted headship rates were equal to the 2016 "Rest-of-Canada" average, where the rest of Canada excludes Ontario and British Columbia.

Figure 1 provides the parameters to convert population data into the number of RoCA Benchmark Households. For example, for every 1,000 persons between the ages of 25 and 34 added to a population, the RoCA Benchmark number of households increases by 467.


Figure 1: RoCA Benchmark Parameters by Age

Age Group RoCA Household Formations Per 1,000 Persons Age Group RoCA Household Formations Per 1,000 Persons Age Group RoCA Household Formations Per 1,000 Persons
0-14 0 35-44 549 65-74 615
15-24 120 45-54 579 75-84 619
25-34 467 55-64 593 85+ 480


With those parameters, we must perform two calculations:

  • Pre-existing housing shortage: How large was each province's housing shortage in 2021, which is the difference between how many households the RoCA province predicts each province should have, based on the size and age of their population, and the number of occupied homes.
  • Household formations between 2021 and 2031: Using population projections by age for each province, how many households will be formed, as calculated by the RoCA Benchmark parameters.


Estimating Pre-existing Housing Shortages

Plugging population and housing figures from the 2021 Census into the RoCA Benchmark, we find that seven provinces and two territories had pre-existing housing shortages (that is, the number of occupied homes was lower than the RoCA Benchmark estimated number of households). Outside of Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta, shortages were relatively modest according to the RoCA framework. Figure 2 shows that the seven provinces and two territories with shortages had a combined pre-existing housing shortage of nearly 700,000 units.


Figure 2: Estimated Pre-Existing Housing Shortage (as of 2021)

Province Pre-Existing Shortage (as of 2021)
Newfoundland and Labrador 5,812
Prince Edward Island 830
Nova Scotia 0
New Brunswick 3,331
Quebec 0
Ontario 471,267
Manitoba 15,139
Saskatchewan 0
Alberta 72,902
British Columbia 121,220
Yukon 0
Northwest Territories 428
Nunavut 974
TOTAL 691,903


Estimating Housing Needs from Population Growth

Our latest report, Ontario's Need for 1.7 Million More Homes, uses Ontario Ministry of Finance population projections to forecast the number of RoCA household formations between 2021 and 2031. Unfortunately, these population projections only cover Ontario, so they cannot be used for Canada-wide projections.

Statistics Canada releases population projections by age; however, their latest release was on August 22nd, 2022. Given the spike in population growth over the past two years, these have become dated, and their "reference" scenario is quite low. However, their high-growth (HG) scenario projects that Canada's population will grow to 44.7 million persons by July 1, 2031. Given that Canada's population was 40.7 million persons at the beginning of 2024, this would suggest our population will grow by approximately 530,000 persons a year over the next 7.5 years. Given recent reforms to non-permanent resident programs, this is a reasonable estimate of annual population growth from now to 2031.

Using the HG scenario, we find that Canada will need to add 2.8 million homes due to projected 2021-31 population growth. Add this to the pre-existing shortage of almost 700,000 units, and Canada should add nearly 3.5 million homes between 2021 and 2031, as shown in Figure 3.


Figure 3: Total Estimated Housing Needs from 2021-31


Province Projected Household Formations (2021-31) Pre-Existing Shortage
(as of 2021)
Total Estimated Housing Needs (2021-31)
Newfoundland and Labrador 5,723 5,812 11,536
Prince Edward Island 14,093 830 14,923
Nova Scotia 54,057 0 54,057
New Brunswick 31,420 3,331 34,751
Quebec 325,855 0 325,855
Ontario 1,237,117 471,267 1,708,384
Manitoba 90,826 15,139 105,965
Saskatchewan 81,164 0 81,164
Alberta 476,641 72,902 549,544
British Columbia 481,091 121,220 602,311
Yukon 3,539 0 3,539
Northwest Territories 2,191 428 2,619
Nunavut 1,824 974 2,798
TOTAL 2,805,541 691,903 3,497,444



Despite using a different set of population projections, we once again find that Ontario will need to build 1.7 million homes from 2021 to 2031 to keep up with population growth and to cover the existing shortfall.

Note that these figures are lower than the 5.1 million homes that Canada will need to build between 2022 and 2030 according to the CMHC states report, Housing shortages in Canada: Updating how much housing we need by 2030. The biggest difference between the two estimates is in Quebec, where we estimate rather modest housing needs due to slow population growth. Similarly, we predict greater housing needs in Alberta, a province that is experiencing rapid population growth. Figure 4 shows the difference between the two sets of estimates, with our estimates being rounded to the nearest thousand (the CMHC paper rounds their estimates to the nearest ten thousand).


Figure 4: Our Total Estimate Housing Needs Estimates vs. CMHC’s

Province Our Estimates (2021-31) CMHC Estimate Difference
Newfoundland and Labrador 12,000 60,000 48,000
Prince Edward Island 15,000 0 -15,000
Nova Scotia 54,000 100,000 46,000
New Brunswick 35,000 20,000 -15,000
Quebec 326,000 1,190,000 864,000
Ontario 1,708,000 2,060,000 352,000
Manitoba 106,000 240,000 134,000
Saskatchewan 81,000 90,000 9,000
Alberta 550,000 410,000 -140,000
British Columbia 602,000 930,000 328,000
Yukon 4,000 0 -4,000
Northwest Territories 3,000 0 -3,000
Nunavut 3,000 0 -3,000
  3,499,000 5,100,000 1,601,000


None of this should be taken to suggest that our estimates are right and the CMHC’s are wrong. Rather, it should be taken to indicate that different methodologies for estimating housing shortages will produce differing results.

We will update our estimates when Statistics Canada releases updated population forecasts. Until then, our best estimate is that Canada will need to build 3.5 million homes between 2021 and 2031, 1.6 million fewer than estimated by the CMHC.

1 Ontario’s Need for 1.5 Million More Homes provides a more detailed explanation of the RoCA Benchmark method.


Mike Moffatt

Senior Director, Policy and Innovation