Where Goes the Housing Ladder? Residential Mobility and Housing Tenure Outcomes Among Canadian Households

  • Author / Creator
    Severson Mason, Meryn A.
  • Canada has a highly tenure-discriminatory housing system where ownership has been privileged and supported in policy while renting has been discouraged and disinvested, contributing to widening social and economic inequality based on housing tenure. Residential mobility, or moving homes, is a key mechanism of change in housing outcomes both in our individual lives and in the housing market. However, despite the key role of housing in patterns of inequality and the importance of residential mobility in achieving housing outcomes, the relationship between residential mobility and housing is underexplored in Canada. This thesis seeks to explore the unequal relationship between mobility experiences and housing tenure outcomes for Canadian households. Drawing from broader life course theory and specifically from the housing transitions framework, I use new data from the 2018 Canadian Housing Survey in a series of descriptive figures and multinomial regression models to explore how residential mobility patterns differ across housing tenure; how past tenure and mobility experiences are associated with current tenure outcomes; and how this relationship differs across income quintiles, age groups, and differences in health status.
    I highlight the discrepancy between the normative and idealized conceptualization of the housing ladder that underpins Canadian housing policy and the reality of households’ housing and mobility experiences. While there was a clustering of more positive and controlled mobility experiences and owned tenures and more negative and involuntary mobility experiences and rental tenures, there were also differences based on the presence of a mortgage or renting in social and affordable housing. The results reinforce the housing and mobility process as a contributor and reflection of growing inequality between owners and renters, but also within owners based on mortgage status – which is particularly important in light of rising interest rates and increasing risks in the housing market. The results also highlight how income, age, and health status mediates the relationship between past tenure and mobility experiences and current tenure, with households who face more structural constraints having a different choice set than households who face fewer structural constraints. This has important repercussions considering how housing and mobility contribute to processes of cumulative advantage and disadvantage. Housing and mobility experiences accumulate across the life course, enabling and constraining future opportunities. Further, the relationship between housing and mobility is produced by the tenure discriminatory housing system, and not inherent to the behaviour of owners and renters, nor to housing tenure itself, and thus can be changed. I suggest several policy implications, overall suggesting that Canadian housing policy should seek to enable choice in the housing and mobility relationship – both the choice to move or to stay and the choice of where and how to live – both of which aligns with a more tenure equal housing system.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.