With the return of the long form Census in 2016, comprehensive population data once again offers a fuller picture of Toronto's residents and the places in which they live. From the scale of the country down to the scale of a city block, the 2016 Census data on "Age and Sex" and "Type of Dwelling" was released this month, with the City of Toronto subsequently highlighting key trends and patterns. The City's recent data analysis builds upon the February 2016 release, which reported on "Population" and "Dwelling Count," recording how Toronto's urban landscape and population has changed over the past several years—and what it could mean for the future.

The changing and unchanging urban fabric of Toronto, image by Jack Landau

Presenting an general portrait of population change, the City's February 2016 'Census Backgrounder' reported that overall, the city grew by 116,511 residents since 2011, giving Toronto a 7.8% share of Canada's total population (2,731,571 of 35,151,728). As an extremely culturally and economically significant region, the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area's (GTHA) population of 6,954,433 now makes up 19.8% of Canada's population. However, Toronto itself now accounts for 39.3% of the GTHA's population, down from 39.8% in 2011, showing a slight shift in population growth towards the 905 region.

The total number of occupied dwellings in Toronto grew by 65,052 since the last census, representing a 6.5% growth since 2011. This is a slight decrease from the 7.0% growth (68,547 dwellings) between 2006 and 2011, but continues with the rebound from a low 3.8% (36,250 dwellings) between 2001 and 2006. The GTHA as a whole saw a growth of 6.8% (16,1748) in occupied dwellings, but was largely dominated by the City of Toronto which accounted for 43.9% of the GTHA's dwellings alone. As a whole, the picture this paints is a steady overall growth in the city and region, but the more fine-grained dwelling data released this month gives more insight into how—and where—the city is growing. 

Concentration Of 5+ Storey Apartments Dwellings In The GTHA by Census Tract, 2016, image by City of Toronto

The type of dwellings is categorized by Statistics Canada as: Single Houses, Semi-Detached Houses, Row Houses, High-Rise Apartments (five or more storeys), Low-Rise Apartment (less than five stories), Duplexes, Other Single-Attached houses, and Moveable dwellings (such as boats and RVs). The percent change in occupancy since 2011 across these categories paints an interesting picture, signalling a shift in the way Torontonians are living:

  • Single Houses decreased by 5,340 dwellings (-1.9%) 
  • Semi-Detached Houses decreased by 1,175 dwellings (-1.6%)
  • Row Houses increased by 1,335 dwellings (2.2%)
  • High-Rise Apartments increased by 64,050 dwellings (14.9%) 
  • Low-Rise Apartments increased by 1,735 dwellings (1.1%)
  • Duplexes increased by 3,800 dwellings (8.5%) 
  • Other single-attached houses increased by 665 dwellings (30.3%) 
  • Moveable dwellings decreased by 95 dwellings (-13.6%) 

As the city has become more dense, single and semi-detached houses have decreased in their share since 2011, with a net decrease of 715 ground-related dwellings (single and semi-detached houses, row/town houses, duplexes, and other single-attached houses). As space becomes scarce, centres of employment shift, and lifestyles change, pockets of low-density suburban dwellings are—very gradually—growing more scarce as homes make way for redevelopment. While historically strong demand for new housing supply is contributing to some redevelopment, the majority of Toronto's so-called 'Stable Neighbourhoods' are being protected from redevelopment through the City's planning policies.

This is clear in the dramatic–but not surprising–increase in High-Rise apartment dwellings across the city. The map below reveals the clear pattern that these housing types follow, as apartments cluster around the City's five designated 'Centres' (under the Official Plan), major transportation routes, and major intersections.

Predominant Structural Type of Dwelling Map, 2016, image by City of Toronto

Statistics Canada also reports on the number of persons occupying a household, and the occupancy of each household gives a picture of how Torontonians are living. Households of four persons and more—often representing small and average sized families—has increased by a modest 1.5% (3,720).

A standout statistic is that households of one or two persons now account for 62.3% of all homes in Toronto. This means Toronto now has an average of 2.42 persons per household, a decrease from 2.46 in 2011.  The City's average household occupancy is now the lowest in the region, with Peel Region the highest at 3.19. While this trend reflects the smaller spaces of Toronto's increasingly prevalent apartment unit and condo units, the broader social shifts—such as the tendency to marry later and have fewer kids—that accompany re-urbanization are also likely in play. 

Meanwhile, a series of maps created by the City of Toronto displays concentrations of certain age groups across the city and region, providing insight into the impact of lifestyle choices on the landscape of the city and future of the GTHA. 

Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area Percent of Children 0 to 14 Years by Census Tract Map, 2016, image by City of Toronto

Seen above, populations children under 14 are concentrated in pockets surrounding the urban core—most notably in the suburbs of Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough. However, parts of the Downtown also have significant—though smaller—populations of children, reflecting the increasing prevalence of raising families in high-rise condominiums. Large concentrations of children are also found in the surrounding regions such as in Brampton and the Durham Region. 

Percent Youth 15 to 24 Years by Census Tract in 2016 Map, image by City of Toronto

Aged 15-24, young millennials are relatively spread throughout Toronto, with clusters of density in part of the Downtown core, as well as at the northern borders of the city in Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough. Notably, significant pockets of young adults are centred around the York University's Keele campus and the University of Toronto's St. George campus, reflecting Toronto's large population of students.

Percent Adults Age 25 to 64 Years by Census Tract in 2016 Map, image by City of Toronto

The working age, 25-64, is the demographic that clearly dominates the Downtown core south of Bloor Street and the much of the Lake Ontario waterfront. With much of Toronto's recent high-rise residential and commercial growth clustered near the lakefront, working-age adults make up a strong majority of the population in these areas. In the post-industrial era, an increasing proportion of jobs are returning to the Downtown core, with the population pattern following the general trend of re-urbanization seen across many North American cities.

Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area Percent of Seniors 65 Years and Over by Census Tract in 2016, image by City of Toronto

Finally, the fastest growing age groups were all over 90, with the population of 90-94 year olds increasing by 41.8%, 95-99 year olds increasing by 30.9%, and 100 year olds and older increasing by 43.9%. As a whole, the 'Seniors' age group (aged 65+) is concentrated across small pockets of the city, but most predominantly in the north end. Within the GTHA as a whole, meanwhile, there are a few additional clusters in York Region, Durham, and Hamilton. 


Looking to the future, the City of Toronto has also reported that 321,200 residential units were in active development between 2011 and 2016. 127,200 of these were approved but not yet built. According to the City's report, "[i]f these proposed units were occupied at the same rate as apartments in buildings of 5 storeys or more built between 2006 and 2011, they would house 213,000 persons." 

In the months to come, the Federal Government will continue to release its next sets of 2016 census data. So far, only four topics have been released in two waves but it is clear that the data holds an immense amount of crucial information. The following topics are to be released by the end of the year:

  • May 10, 2016: "Census of Agriculture"
  • August 2, 2016: "Families, households and marital status" and "Language"
  • September 13, 2016: "Income"
  • October 25, 2016: "Immigration and ethnocultural diversity", "Housing", and "Aboriginal peoples"
  • November 29, 2016: "Education", "Labour", "Journey to work", "Language of work", and "Mobility and migration"

There are sure to be more findings among the tons of data that are to come, helping to better understand our city and what is in store for the future. We will keep you updated as more topics released in the coming months and as report on the stories which they tell.