Downsize: The benefits of living in a smaller house

Sarah Tolle – Homify Canada Sarah Tolle – Homify Canada
Mini Craven Linebox Studio Minimalist house
Loading admin actions …

If you own a home in Canada, it’s possible that you can count your home among some of the largest in the world, in terms of square footage. Canada has long been a place benefitting from an abundance of unoccupied land as cities have expanded over generations. In a 2017 outlook, auditors from PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that Canadian homeowners, on average, enjoy the third-largest house size in the world (second only to the U.S. and Australia).

However, it appears as though the housing market across the country is shifting in terms of average housing size. Increased immigration is seen as one contributing factor, as immigrant populations in general are increasing the demand for affordable housing, with less importance given to generous square footage.

1. Affordable houses

Modern design with panel siding. Linwood Green Homes Modern houses Concrete Grey
Linwood Green Homes

Modern design with panel siding.

Linwood Green Homes

Likewise, in highly competitive markets like Toronto and Vancouver, the average unit size has been shrinking for years in order to make each unit more affordable to buyers (and even then, both of these cities have experienced very low housing affordability ratings in recent years). As housing prices continue to rise with no foreseeable cap, smaller home sizes are becoming the norm.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) explains in one assessment that “home prices have risen ahead of economic fundamentals such as personal disposable income and population growth, resulting in overvaluation in many Canadian housing markets.’

2. More disposable income

It appears that shrinking housing sizes are reflecting Canadians’ shrinking disposable income. However, this shrinking might not be as dire as it may appear at first glance—Canadian homes seem to have enjoyed more than enough elbow room for decades. With the third largest average houses sizes, the current average house size in Canada hovers around 2,000 square feet, an impressive 500 square feet larger than Denmark, the next country in line. 

This clever Toronto home is proof that a shrinking floor plan might not be such a bad thing - tour this home in this ideabook for an example of a small floor plan that's been designed with impeccable style!

3. Small homes encourage family bonding

When did Canadian homes become so large? You can chalk it up to the wave of Baby Boomers who hit the housing market in the 80s—as one of the largest middle class demographics in modern history, this generation enjoyed the luxury of large lot sizes, cheap land, and high incomes. The average family was able to afford quite a bit of stuff, and it follows that they needed a large home for having of their stuff. What’s more, many of these new homebuyers were hot to get away from the cramped bedrooms and bathrooms that they shared with multiple siblings growing up post-war; large floor plans with multiple separate areas like dens and playrooms and mudrooms were all the rage. Interestingly, as Canadian houses expanded in the later half of the 1900s, family sizes shrank. Nowadays, regardless of lot size and land price, for many of today's 3- and 4-person families, it's simply no longer necessary to have as large a home as the previous generation of buyers.

4. Easier to maintain

It appears this expansion has finally reached its apex, with a peak of 2,300 square feet in the mid-2000s. Currently, the average new home rings in at 1,900 square feet—still a luxuriously large home by global standards. Even with predictions of continued downsizing, it appears that Canadian homes will remain among the largest in the world. 

5. The upside: creating more innovative homes

With land at an ever-increasing premium, architects and designers are finding more innovative ways to use space—and consumers are reconsidering conventional home features and swapping them out for more utilitarian designs. Overall, new homes are shifting towards a more European model, following the example of cultures who have been raising their families in small spaces for centuries. Multi-functional features are becoming more popular, and space-saving measures such as streamlined storage solutions and double-function rooms are seen as highly attractive home elements. Canadians are learning to do more with less space, finding ways to build a home office under the stairs, combine rooms with distinct functions (a common solution is to design the kitchen and dining room as one), and manipulate walls and windows in order to create the feeling of having more space.

The tiny house movement

Greenmoxie Tiny House Greenmoxie Magazine Living room
Greenmoxie Magazine

Greenmoxie Tiny House

Greenmoxie Magazine

In the end, whether or not you’re on board with the ideas behind the “tiny house” movement, it appears as though Canadian homes aren’t going to start growing again anytime soon. Instead of looking for more space, you’ll find yourself focusing on the quality of the existing space, the integrity of the materials that make up your home, and the quality and style of life that you can enjoy within it. 

Thinking small? Meet Kubu, the charming quickly-built cube home.

So, what do you think? Share your thoughts about the shrinking average Canadian house size below.

Need help with your home project?
Get in touch!

Discover home inspiration!