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Metro News and reporter Jen St. Denis reports on Toronto economist Paul Smetanin who has ascertained that if an elderly couple in Vancouver are living in a house with over one bedroom, they are overhoused. Of course those elderly that live in a house with more than one bedroom would be wealthier too. Smetanin estimates that 70 per cent of people living in Vancouver have “800,000 spare bedrooms.”

“In Smetanin’s analysis, a co-habiting couple living in anything more than a one-bedroom home is considered “over housed.” Homeowners who are wealthier and older are most likely to be over housed. The number of empty bedrooms is equal to 15 years of construction at current rates, said Smetanin, who has used data from Statistics Canada and other sources to create a broad set of data about housing needs in Canadian cities.

The numbers are similar for Toronto, and policy-makers from the United States to the United Kingdom to Australia are struggling with the demographic shift. ”

Gene Balk, a columnist at the Seattle Times has calculated that the number of empty  bedrooms in Seattle has increased by 50 per cent in the last 16 years. Local real estate developer Michael Geller has suggested that seniors may be delaying going into condominium  housing forms to avoid strata councils, and a range of different housing forms is needed.

The ability for seniors to defer property tax and the fact that there  are no capital gains on the sale of a home may encourage seniors to age in place. There are also compelling financial reasons to stay in the home you raised your family in: homeowners don’t pay capital gains tax when they sell their principal residence and make a profit, and some argue it makes more sense to stay in the home and leave the total appreciated gain for your estate.

Geller does see a change where seniors are now interested in supporting new forms of housing for the post-house phase of senior life. “These baby boomers are the ones who are often opposing townhouse and apartment developments in their neighbourhoods for the last 30 years,” he said. “Now that they’re ready to perhaps move into a new housing choice, I think there’s a greater willingness to accept sensitive infill development.”

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