One million residents short of estimates

If your top skills include “counting, like, really high” then boy, does the government have a job for you. 

What happened: A report published yesterday by CIBC economist Benjamin Tal found that there are around one million more non-permanent residents (NPRs) in Canada—including international students—than government estimates would lead home builders to believe.

  • Of those million, ~750,000 are flying under the radar because Stats Canada assumes folks with expired visas leave the country after 30 days, but most don’t.

  • The remaining 250,000 are international students. There’s no limit on how many student visas can be issued annually, and not all of them fill out census forms.  

Why it matters: Per The Globe and Mail, planners rely on forecasts to know how much housing needs to be built. Part of what has fuelled the current housing crunch (which has sent prices soaring) stems from 2013 population projections for 2023 that fell super short. 

  • Around 1.5 million short, to be exact. About 1.1 million of that total can be tied to an unexpected increase in NPRs, and the rest to unexpectedly strong immigration. 
  • Meanwhile, the feds have bumped immigration targets for permanent residents to record highs. The aim is to admit ~500,000 people this year, outside of new NPRs. 

Bottom line: “The practical implication of that undercounting is that the housing affordability crisis Canada is facing is actually worse than perceived,” wrote Tal. But with governments so far behind already, it’ll likely take more than better census data to fix the housing crisis.—SB