Housing Need on Gabriola

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This backgrounder looks at housing need on Gabriola by presenting information about:

  1. Homelessness
  2. “Core Housing Need”
    • Adequacy
    • Affordability
    • Suitability
  3. More on Affordability
    • Median Household Total Income
    • Median One Person Total Income
    • Low Income
    • Median Monthly Shelter Costs
    • Average House Prices

4. Housing Diversity

5. Renters and Owners

6. Housing Mobility

7. Housing Occupancy

8. Household Makeup

9. Family Makeup

10. Median Age & Distribution

The statistics below are from the 2016 Canadian Census of Population [1], [2] unless noted otherwise. Most of the graphics below are from the Gabriola Health and Wellness Collaborative’s 2020 Gabriola Health Report [3] but some were created for this document. The Health Report compared Gabriola with Bowen Island, Nanaimo and British Columbia, which we are also doing here.

Other recent reports that look at housing need on Gabriola include the 2018 “Housing Needs Assessment” report[4], and the 2012 “Affordable Housing Strategy[5].


1. Homelessness

Gabriola has a high rate of homelessness. In 2019, 62 Gabriolans were identified as being homeless. This means that one of every 65 Gabriola residents is homeless, compared with the Nanaimo rate of one in 270, and the provincial rate of one in 653.

These numbers include people with no current home, those living in a car or couch surfing, or those who have a home that does not have a bathroom and/or a kitchen.


2. Core Housing Need

Housing need is often defined by whether a household’s housing is:

  • Adequate – not requiring major repairs
  • Affordable – costs less than 30% of total before-tax household income
  • Suitable – has enough bedrooms for the size and makeup of the household.

A household is said to be in “core housing need” if its housing falls below at least one of the standards above AND “would have to spend 30% or more of its total before-tax income to pay the median rent of alternative local housing” that does meet all three standards.[6]

We don’t know how many households on Gabriola are officially defined as being in core housing need but we can look at what we do know about adequacy, affordability, and suitability to tell us something about the level of housing need on Gabriola.

Housing Adequacy

The 2016 Census shows that 9% of the housing on Gabriola needs major repairs.[7] This is more than in other comparison communities.

Gabriola residents may also face other issues with housing – like not having potable water or having poorly functioning septic fields, etc.

Housing Affordability

Housing is typically thought to be unaffordable if a person or household spends more than 30% of their monthly total income (i.e., before taxes [8]) on their housing (rent / mortgage / lease and related costs like heat, water, electricity, etc.). [9] [10]

By this standard, more than half of Gabriolans who rent and about 20% of Gabriolans who own their own homes were living in unaffordable housing in 2016.

Housing Suitability

Housing is said to be suitable if it has enough bedrooms for the size and makeup of the household. According to the 2016 Census, Gabriola has a very high rate of housing suitability, higher than that of other comparison communities.

GABRIOLABOWENNANAIMOBRITISH COLUMBIA
Suitable98.6%96.7%97.0%94.7%
Unsuitable1.4%3.3%3.0%5.3%

It’s important to note that Gabriola has a lot of households made up of only one or two people (see Household Makeup below). And, the vast majority of housing stock on Gabriola is made up of single-family dwellings (see Housing Diversity below). The combination of small household size and the makeup of Gabriola’s housing stock may account for the high rate of housing suitability, which may not show whether there is enough housing on Gabriola that is suitable for larger households.


3. More on Affordability

  • Median total income of all households

The median total income of all households on Gabriola was $47,795 in 2015, according to the 2016 Census.[11][12]

Median income is the amount at the halfway point between the highest and lowest incomes. Half of people’s incomes are higher than the median and half are lower. Gabriola’s median income is much lower than that in comparison communities. Median total household income is used in the calculation of housing affordability (see above).   

  • Median total income of one-person households

The median total income of one-person households on Gabriola was $25,472 in 2015. Median income is the amount at the halfway point between the highest and lowest incomes. Half of people’s incomes ar higher than the median and half are lower. 36.4% – or more than one-third – of households on Gabriola are made up of one person (see Household  Makeup below).

  • Low income

Gabriola also has a high percentage of people living on low incomes – nearly 25% were in low income in 2015, according to the 2016 Census.

Low income is defined as 50% or less of the national median household income.[13] Gabriola’s low income rate is very high compared to comparator communities, and represents about 1,000 people.

As well, Gabriola has a high percentage of children living in low income – nearly 40% – which of course means their families are living in low income.

Gabriolans of all ages have a higher rate of low income than those in comparison communities.

  • Median monthly shelter costs

Median monthly shelter costs on Gabriola were low relative to comparison communities when the Census was taken in 2016. The median is the halfway point, which means half of shelter costs were higher and half were lower than the median.

The population on Gabriola is generally older (the median age in 2016 was 61 – see age data below) so it could be that most people have paid off all or most of their mortgage. This would mean lower housing costs for owners and lower amounts that owners charge in monthly rent.

These housing costs may also reflect lower taxes on Gabriola than in other municipalities. We don’t know how much housing costs – especially rents – have increased since 2016. 

  • Average house prices

Between December 2019 and November 2020, the average selling price of a “typical” single-family home on Gabriola – which does not include homes with acreage (i.e., 5 acres or more) or those on a waterfront lot – was $467,017.[14]  (If acreage and waterfront homes are included, the average selling price was $639,513.)

To afford this “typical” home, an individual or family would need to have an income of between $82,900 (for a 20% down payment) and $108,264 (for a 5% down payment). Monthly mortgage payments would be between $1,345 and $1,886.[15]

Can Gabriola households afford to buy homes on Gabriola?

  • The median total income of households on Gabriola in 2015 was $47,795 (see above).
  • A Gabriola household’s income would have to have increased by between 73% and 127% between 2015 and 2020 in order to afford to purchase the typical single-family home. 

Can Gabriola individuals afford to buy Gabriola houses?

  • The median total income of one-person Gabriola households in 2015 was $25,472 (see above).
  • A one-person Gabriola household’s income would have to have increased by between 225% and 325% between 2015 and 2020 in order to afford to purchase the typical single-family home.  

The average selling price for a “typical” home in 2015 was $266,571, which means the average price increased by 75% between 2015 and 2020.

Between December 2019 and November 2020, twenty-three typical single-family homes sold for less than the average home price of $467,017.[16] 45 homes in this same category sold in this period, meaning that about 51% sold for under the average price. 

A recent report from the Regional District of Nanaimo says that “Low income households [on Gabriola] would be challenged to afford a rental unit within 30% of their monthly income, and home ownership is out-of-reach for the majority of the households, including couples families.”[17]


4. Housing Diversity

About 93% of the housing stock on Gabriola is single-detached houses. Only 4% is “other attached dwellings” and 3% is movable dwellings.

“Other attached” includes semi-detached houses; row houses; apartments in a duplex; apartments in a building with fewer than five storeys, and other single-attached houses.

Gabriola’s housing stock is much less diverse than that of comparison communities. The lack of diversity in the housing stock limits options for those who are not able to or don’t want to purchase this style of home. It may also contribute to affordability issues.


5. Renters and Owners

More than 80% of households on Gabriola own their home, according to the 2016 Census, while 17% rent. There are 2,145 households on Gabriola, so about 1,780 own their home and about 365 rent.


6. Housing Mobility

Nearly 1/3 of the people who had moved to the home they were living in on Gabriola when the 2016 Census was taken had moved there from another location on Gabriola.

We don’t know how many of these people who move are renters and how many are owners. However, given that more than half of renters are spending more than 30% of their income on rent (see Housing Affordability above), this rate of mobility – which may indicate the need to move to find better quality, more secure, suitable, more secure or affordable housing – could indicate problems with Gabriola’s rental housing stock.


7. Housing Occupancy

More than 70% of the private dwellings on Gabriola were occupied by usual residents in the 2016 census.[18] Nearly 30% (or 845 homes) were not, but we don’t know how many of those are unoccupied, used for personal seasonal usage, or are available for seasonal rentals or full-year, full-time residency.


8. Household Makeup

In 2016 there were 2,145 households on Gabriola, with an average household size of just under two people.

Of the 2,145 households on Gabriola, the vast majority – 85.4% or 1,832 households – are made up of either a single person (781) or two people (1,051). 15% of households (or about 322) are made up of three or more people.  

As well, nearly 60% of the 2,145 households on Gabriola are single family households – that is, one group of people who are all related. Almost 40% are non-family households. A non-family household is either a single person living alone or two or more unrelated people living together.

Given that singles make up about 781 households (from the data above), this means there are about 59 households are made up of roommates or other non-family arrangements. 


9. Family Composition

Most of the families on Gabriola – about 979 or nearly 75% – are couples without children.

However, 235 Gabriola families are couples with children, and about 106 are lone parent families. To ensure housing suitability, these families will need housing that has two or more bedrooms.


 10. Median Age & Distribution

The median age of the population on Gabriola in 2016 was just over 61 years.

The age distribution on Gabriola in 2016, by gender, is shown in the chart below.  


Some Take-Aways about Housing Need on Gabriola

  • Homelessness
    • A number of Gabriolans are homeless. Note that homelessness in this instance includes people whose housing doesn’t have a bathroom and/or kitchen, which may speak to the issue of housing adequacy on Gabriola. People who are homeless may have particular housing needs and may need housing-related supports.
  • Housing Adequacy
    • 9% of housing on Gabriola – or about 193 dwellings – need major repairs. As noted above, this may not include other housing-related issues that people on Gabriola face, like problems with as septic fields, etc.
  • Housing Affordability
    • According to the 2016 Census, about 365 households on Gabriola are renters. More than half of renters are paying more than 30% of their incomes for housing, so we know that about 183 Gabriola households are particularly impacted by the lack of affordable housing.
    • One-fifth of owners are paying more than 30% of their incomes for housing, so we know that about 356 owner households are having difficulty with housing affordability.
    • Housing affordability is a serious issue on Gabriola, especially for people who rent.
    • About one-quarter of Gabriolans are living on low incomes. They may be younger people who are working for low pay, those who rely on benefits from income support programs, or older people living on fixed incomes. As well, nearly 40% of children are living in low income families and nearly 30% of working-age adults are low income.
    • Monthly housing costs for both owners and renters appear to be low, but we don’t know how much these costs have increased since the 2016 Census.
    • Increases in income levels on Gabriola since 2015 may not have kept pace with increases in house prices, which might have an impact on whether Gabriolans can afford to purchase a “typical” house on the island. However, the Regional District of Nanaimo says that “Low income households [on Gabriola] would be challenged to afford a rental unit within 30% of their monthly income, and home ownership is out-of-reach for the majority of the households, including couples families.”
    • House prices – and associated mortgage costs – may have an impact on rents, given that owners may charge enough rent to at least cover their mortgage.
  • Housing Suitability
    • Housing suitability on Gabriola – i.e., whether housing has enough bedrooms for the size and makeup of the household – is very high. This isn’t a surprise given that most households are made up of one or two people and the vast majority of housing stock is single family dwellings. However, 15% of households on Gabriola – or about 322 – are made up of three people or more. We don’t know how many of those households have access to housing with enough bedrooms for the number of people in their family.
  • Housing Diversity
    • The vast majority of housing stock on Gabriola – about 93% – is single-detached houses. The lack of diversity in housing stock limits options for those who are not able to or don’t want to purchase this style of home.
  • Housing Availability
    • Nearly 845 homes – or 30% – were not occupied by usual residents when the 2016 Census was taken. We don’t know how many of those are unoccupied, are used for personal seasonal usage, or are available for seasonal rentals or full-year, full-time residency.

This document was prepared by the Research Team of the Gabriola Housing Working Group, January 2021


Endnotes:

[1]  Gabriola Island Trust Area 2016 Census Profile

[2] The next Census of Population will be conducted by Statistics Canada in May 2021. For more information see: https://census.gc.ca/index-eng.htm.

[3] 2020 Gabriola Health Report.

[4] Housing Needs Assessment, Northern Region of Islands Trust, Dillon Consulting, 2018.

[5] An Affordable Housing Strategy for Gabriola Island, People for a Healthy Community, 2012.

[6] See the definition of Core Housing Need in the Dictionary of the 2016 Census of Population.

[7] Statistics Canada says that this includes: “dwellings with defective plumbing or electrical wiring, and dwellings needing structural repairs to walls, floors or ceilings”. https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/ref/dict/dwelling-logements003-eng.cfm

[8] Total income is defined here: https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/ref/dict/pop123-eng.cfm.   

[9] Statistics Canada, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and the provinces agree on this definition. See https://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/pUtil.pl?Function=getNote&Id=299278&NT=01.

[10] For further information on the definition of shelter costs, see: https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/ref/dict/households-menage033-eng.cfm

[11] Census income data reflects the total annual income of the previous year (i.e., 2015).

[12] Total income does not include amounts paid in taxes. See the definition in endnote 6 above.

[13]  Low income is measured using the Low-Income Measure After Tax (LIM-AT), which marks 50 percent of the national household median income adjusted for household size. Those with incomes under this threshold are said to be in low income. More information about the LIM-AT is here: https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/ref/dict/fam021-eng.cfm. In 2018, the federal government adopted the Market Basket Measure (MBM) as Canada’s official measure of poverty. The MBM reporesents the cost of a number of food, clothing, shelter, transportation and other items deemed to represent a “modest, basic standard of living”. Those people with incomes lower than the MBM threshold are considered to be living in poverty. The 2016 Census did not computer low income / poverty using the MBM. More information about the MBM is here: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75f0002m/75f0002m2019009-eng.htm.

[14] Selling price data for 2015 and 2020, total household affordability calculations, and mortgage calculations were provided by John Woods of the The Mortgage Centre, Fitzwilliam Mortgage. One-person household affordability calculations were done by the document author.

[15] Income of $82,900 and monthly mortgage payments of $1,345 are based on a 20% down payment. Income of $108,264 and monthly mortgage payments of $1,886 are based on a 5% down payment. These calculations assume amortization over 30 years, with no other debts.

[16]  This data was provided by Tina and Guy Team via John Woods.

[17]  Regional Housing Needs Report. Regional District of Nanaimo. June 2020, p.73: https://www.rdn.bc.ca/housing-needs-report

[18] The definition of “usual place of residence” is complex. See the definition here:  https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/ref/dict/pop126-eng.cfm.

[19] Regional Housing Needs Report. Regional District of Nanaimo. June 2020, p.73. See endnote 17 above.