Soaring house prices and rising personal debt are making it impossible for many millennials, even those with good paying jobs, to ever afford a home, says a new poll commissioned by KPMG in Canada.

While almost three-quarters of millennials say their goal is to own a home, almost half say home ownership is a pipedream, the poll says. It surveyed 2,500 Canadians, including 1,000 millennials between the ages of 23 and 38 who now represent the largest population generation in the country.

Millenial housing poll EN (CNW Group/KPMG LLP)

“The combination of rising house prices, high levels of personal debt and annual incomes that are just a fraction of the cost of buying a home compared with their parents’ generation is pushing the dream of home ownership out of reach for many millennials,” says Martin Joyce, a partner at KPMG. “This is particularly challenging in the markets of Vancouver and Toronto.”

The poll found that 72 per cent of millennials say their goal is to own a home, but 46 per cent say owning a home is a pipedream. An equal number, 46 per cent of millennial homeowners, received a financial boost from their parents in order to buy a home. The poll found 38 per cent believe their house won’t be worth as much in the future.

KMPG says that as the most educated generation, millennials have incurred high levels of student debt and those who have been able to enter the housing market have taken on larger mortgages relative to their incomes than those who came before them, according to Statistics Canada. While millennials have higher incomes than previous cohorts, in part because of their higher educations, they are not necessarily better off, KMPG says.

Household debt has been on an upward trend for the past 30 years and recently reached record highs, making home ownership even more unaffordable, especially in tight markets. Whereas the average debt-to-disposable income ratio in Canada was almost 87 per cent in 1990, it was more than 175 per cent at the end of 2018 – a trend that has caused the Bank of Canada to raise alarms about the country’s economic vulnerability, says KMPG.

Debt-to-income ratio is a key financial indicator and, for young millennials, that now stands at 216 per cent, far exceeding the 125 per cent for Gen-Xers and 80 per cent for baby boomers at the same age – primarily because of mortgage debt. Wage growth has also been slower than expected, the Bank of Canada says.

While millennials have proven to be willing to incur higher levels of debt to attain home ownership, they are less optimistic about the payoffs, the KPMG poll finds.

Millennials now take an average of 13 years to save for a 20 per cent down payment, while it took their parents just about five years in 1976, according to a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. report.

“That’s eight fewer years that millennials might have for saving more for their retirement,” Joyce says. “If they do manage to save up and buy a house now and delay retirement savings, our poll finds 65 per cent of millennials fear they won’t have enough saved for retirement.”

A majority of all the generations surveyed in the KPMG poll wants Ottawa to take action such as:

  • make housing more affordable;
  • make it easier to use RRSPs for down payments;
  • raise TFSA limits; and,
  • implement a new registered savings system, like RESPs for education savings, to make housing more affordable.

“It seems pretty clear that millennials are in a unique situation in terms of their ability to purchase a home – which has historically been a foundation for retirement stability – and most Canadians agree that the government has a role to play in making it a more achievable dream for many of them,” Joyce says. “It’s time to have a national conversation.”



  1. Compared to people of 1976, People today put spending money on other things they think are more important to have then a house such as Cell phones with large monthly fees, Car payments, large screen TV,s, eating out everyday of the week rent on a beautiful apartment instead of modest accommodations Not saving a portion of each paycheck and the biggest problem, wanting to start at the top have a nice new home and not a fixer upper ( the stepping stone to your dream house) and the right of entitlement.

    • While I am always careful not to generalize things, the “need” vs the “want” list seems to be a bit out of wack. Just like I always ask my buyers to tell me their needs (i.e. must have double car garage) vs. their wants (needs separate dining room). Things are definitely harder now but I believe the willingness to compromise for the first few years is not as prevalent as it used to be.

  2. Great solution until the problems begin. Who is responsible for what maintenance? What if one owner begins to miss payments? What if one owner wants out? When selling who decided who the new owner will be. What if they determine they no longer get along. The problem list is endless. It is sad that this is what youth has to look forward to. Communal living. And it had been done in the past . People referred to them as communes.

    • Yes, an agreement should be written with a lawyer outlining responsibilities and options ….
      This is the new reality for many millenniums. It sure beats the option of paying $2,900 monthly rent as it is in Toronto.

  3. It is reported that soaring debt is a problem due to high student debt. I would be interested in finding out who is accumulating this soaring debt. Many people begin education funds for their kids to save for college or university. I know we have. It is my opinion that mellinials buying everything online and the ” must have it now” culture of our society is more of a concern today. Every kid sees hundreds of ads per week to buy something. Pushing online sales. Pushing food delivered to your door. The list is on going. One thousand plus dollars for a phone , associated with endless monthly payments to use the phone. And how do they pay for all this? Credit Cards. And then people scratch their heads trying to figure out how all this debt was accumulated.

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