Wealthy Toronto pockets see drops in average income: census


The average household income for those living in Toronto’s tony Yorkville neighbourhood plummeted by more than 46 per cent from 2015 to 2020 — just one of many wealthier enclaves in the city that saw big income drops, according to new census data.

On Wednesday, Statistics Canada released income data from the 2021 census, which includes income from the year 2020. It revealed larger declines for the average household income in wealthier pockets of the city, including a 39 per cent drop in Hoggs Hollow, 30 per cent in the Bridle Path, and a 45 per cent drop in the Financial District.

In Yorkville, the average household income dropped to $230,200 in 2021, from $431,600 in 2015. One major factor for the significant income change in that neighbourhood is an evolving population, said Eric Olson, assistant director for the Centre for Income and Socioeconomic Well-being Statistics at Statistics Canada.

From 2016 to 2021, the population grew in Yorkville by 37.3 per cent, an increase of 900 households, with around 600 were people living alone or with roommates.

“A lot of that growth was in a relatively lower income demographic than the population that was there before,” said Olson. “Most of the newer residents live in apartments.”

A boom in condo construction for the area led to the demographic change as more buildings with smaller units such as studios or one-bedrooms surged in the area, said Briar de Lange, executive director of the Bloor-Yorkville Business Improvement Area (BIA).

“I’d say in the last 12 to 15 years 30 buildings have gone up,” she said. “There’s been a real population boom.”

Over the last decade she’s noticed a busier Yorkville with new amenities such as a Pet Valu, pharmacies, and grocery stores cropping up along the narrow streets.

“More amenities that people are looking for have popped up and they’re busier than ever,” de Lange said.

Cailey Heaps, CEO and broker of record at The Heaps Estrin Team, noted Toronto has seen a large influx of one-bedroom condo development with Yorkville being a hot spot.

“I can think of one project in particular in Yorkville that focused on smaller units and that is the conversion of the former Four Seasons Hotel, which added 496 smaller units to the Yorkville market,” she said.

A large quadrant of buildings are going up east of Yonge Street along Charles Street. And on Bay Street north of Bloor Street multiple towers are being erected, de Lange said.

“If you’re building different types of dwellings with smaller units or apartments that don’t correspond to what’s available before that will change the composition,” StatsCan’s Olson said.

Just south of Yorkville in University-Rosedale area, another higher-income part of the city, there was a population increase of 26 per cent from 2015 to 2020, he said. That area also saw a drop in average household income.

“You can tell that these neighbourhoods are evolving as the downtown becomes more developed and attracts different people. Whether this change will continue depends on the land available for development,” Olson said.

But in other wealthy areas, development doesn’t always explain the drop in incomes, with experts pointing to other factors such as baby boomers retiring, more dividends being handed out to high-earners in 2015, and downtown residents leaving the city centre when the pandemic hit in 2020.

Within Yorkville there are two key demographics, said de Lange. One is the older, highly educated and affluent group and the other is a younger generation who “aspire to be like that but don’t have a pocket book to match,” she added.

Many of the baby boomers in those areas have likely paid off mortgages, don’t have outstanding debt and are retired, such as, “those who were doctors or CEOs and made $500,000 to a million and more. When they retire that large income is gone. They’ll have savings to draw on, but not the income they may have had five years ago when they left those high paying jobs,” de Lange said.

She said the same phenomenon is being seen in Rosedale and Forest Hill as more affluent people retire. According to StatsCan, Rosedale saw an income drop of 15.6 per cent and part of Forest Hill saw almost a 33 per cent plunge.

While some wealthier enclaves of the city saw a bigger drop in income, StatsCan’s Olson said there are a few reasons for it, one being that 2015 and 2020 were both exceptional years.

In 2015, there was an increase in the amount of dividends — company profits distributed to shareholders typically in the form of cash or stock reinvestments — being handed out to high-income individuals or households. While the reason for the increase in dividends isn’t clear, some people might have increased their amount of dividends for tax reasons, Olson said.

And 2020 was the start of the pandemic, which saw more people leave the city centre to greener pastures. If high-earners moved away and invested elsewhere that would change the income data, said Olson.

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