Toronto out-migration fuels London-area population growth

New data from Statistics Canada appears to support estate agents’ claims that out-of-town buyers are increasing demand in the London property market.

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New data from Statistics Canada appears to support estate agents’ claims that out-of-town buyers are increasing demand in the London property market.

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Newcomers from Ontario are driving a population growth rate for London that is half of what it was before the pandemic, but still better than that of Canada as a whole and the most other major cities in the province.

The region’s population grew by 5,150 people in the 12 months ending July 1, 2021 and most of these came from other parts of Ontario, keeping London’s growth at the far end top of all metropolitan areas in the province, according to Statistics Canada figures released Thursday.

“Given we’re just going through a pandemic, it’s surprising that we continue to see intraprovincial growth,” said Don Kerr, demographer and professor at King’s University College.

“That would be consistent with that narrative you always hear about people moving (here) from Toronto.”

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London’s net gain of 3,245 people from elsewhere in Ontario came as Toronto saw a net loss of nearly 65,000 people, according to Statistics Canada.

Overall, the London area grew at a rate of 0.9%.

That brings the total population of the census metropolitan area, which includes Strathroy, St. Thomas and parts of Elgin and Middlesex counties, to 556,397, according to the federal agency.

At 0.9%, London grew at a slower pace than in the 12 months to July 1, 2020, when it rose 1.7%, or the year before, when it increased by 2.3%.

Even still, and in the midst of the pandemic, the city has grown at almost twice the rate of the country, with Canada’s population growing by just 0.5% over the same period.

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The London region’s growth rate ranked sixth among major metropolitan areas in Ontario.

“We haven’t seen this slow population growth rate (nationally) for over 70, 80 years, so the fact that our city has still grown by almost 1% suggests that (London), relatively speaking , is doing reasonably well,” Kerr mentioned.

For years, the London area has attracted people from other parts of Ontario, including the Toronto area, where homeowners can withdraw cash in one of the hottest markets in the country and buy cheaply in London, even with record average selling prices.

The pandemic, with its lockdowns and restrictions, has only accelerated this trend, said Mike Moffatt, an economist and professor at Western University’s Ivey School of Business.

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“If you’re going to be trapped indoors, you want to be trapped somewhere with a bit more space where you have a garden and that sort of thing,” he said.

But it’s not just Toronto-area retirees who are moving west to places like London. Young families make up some of the people coming to the city, Moffatt said.

“You have a lot of people in their late twenties, early thirties who are in Toronto who are about to have a child, or would like to have a child, and say, ‘You know what? It won’t work,” he said.

“So that tends to be the dynamic: people in the GTA who would love to have a bigger house or accommodation, but just can’t afford it in the GTA market, then move to places like London.”

London’s property market isn’t the only draw. Its strong economy, healthcare and education services also make it an attractive destination for many.

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As expected, the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced immigration to the country.

But while the number of new arrivals has dropped significantly across Canada, London has still held its own.

Although the city lost many non-permanent residents, including international students, London saw a net gain of over 2,000 newcomers from outside the country.

On the other hand, population growth by natural birth decreased between 2020 and 2021, while the city recorded a net loss of 424 people who moved to other provinces.

But growth doesn’t come without pain, Kerr and Moffatt agreed.

The large number of out-of-town buyers, for example, has helped push home prices on the London market to heights never seen before.

Realtors in the area sold nearly 11,000 homes last year, only the second year in which home sales topped 10,000. The average sale price rose by nearly 30%, reaching $707,000 in December.

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“That contributes to our affordability challenge, and it’s also important to make sure we have enough infrastructure,” Moffatt said.

“And it’s not just enough housing, but making sure there are enough schools and doctors and all the support infrastructure you need for the population.”

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Twitter.com/JuhaatLFPress


IN NUMBERS: POPULATION GROWTH

(For the year ended July 1, 2021)

Canada: 0.5%

* * *

Highest rates in Ontario:

Oshawa : 2.3%

Brantford: 1.8%

Barre: 1.4%

Guelph: 1.1%

Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo: 1 percent

London: 0.9%

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