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Young people paying 'astronomically high living expenses': insolvency trustee

Young Canadians grappling with the dream of homeownership face a harsh reality check, as insolvency trustees warn of the perilous financial burden associated with skyrocketing living costs. 

Rob Kilner, an insolvency trustee at Spergel, underscored the pressing need for a shift in perspective, emphasizing the necessity for many young Canadians to reconsider homeownership aspirations in favor of more financially sustainable alternatives, such as renting. Kilner highlighted the prevailing sense of entitlement among younger demographics, attributing it to stagnant wages amidst soaring inflation and housing prices compounded by escalating interest rates.

"You now have a younger generation who are paying astronomically high living expenses. They are taking the beating the most. It’s almost like the older generation took up the ladder with them, and said ‘good luck climbing the wall,’" Kilner remarked.

Echoing Kilner's sentiment, Samantha Galea, also an insolvency trustee at Spergel, urged a fundamental shift in attitudes towards homeownership, cautioning against the misconception that owning a home equates to success. Galea stressed that such ideals may exacerbate financial vulnerability for individuals ill-equipped to navigate the steep financial demands associated with homeownership.

Recent insights from Wahi's Homebuyer Intention Survey shed light on the prevailing sentiment among young Canadians, with 24 percent of respondents aged 18 to 34 expressing intentions to purchase a home this year. However, this ambition comes at a cost, as many respondents indicated a willingness to make significant sacrifices, including curbing expenditures, extending work hours, or seeking secondary employment.

A separate survey conducted by Houseful, an RBC subsidiary, underscored the compromises made by younger first-time homebuyers to gain a foothold in the housing market. These concessions ranged from settling for smaller dwellings to compromising on ideal locations, signaling a pragmatic approach to homeownership characterized by adaptability and flexibility.

The overarching trend paints a sobering picture of generational disparities in wealth accumulation, with homeownership traditionally serving as a cornerstone for building financial security. Carrie Freestone, an economist at RBC, highlighted the alarming implications of restricted access to homeownership, particularly for renters grappling with escalating housing costs. Freestone underscored the pivotal role of homeownership in wealth accumulation, expressing concern over the widening gap between homeowners and renters in accessing the housing market.

As the specter of unattainable homeownership looms large for many young Canadians, the imperative for proactive measures to address housing affordability becomes increasingly urgent. With insolvency trustees advocating for a pragmatic reassessment of housing aspirations and economists sounding the alarm on the widening wealth gap, the discourse surrounding homeownership in Canada stands at a critical juncture, demanding innovative solutions to ensure financial stability and inclusivity for all.