Census learning centre
Housing and dwelling characteristics

Release date: September 21, 2022

Catalogue number: 982000032021022

Hello and welcome to the "Housing and dwelling characteristics" video.

This video introduces household and dwelling characteristics and their use in dissemination and analysis. It also presents the housing variables that are commonly used in analyses such as household maintainer, tenure, total income of household, household size and household type. In addition, the video shows the dwelling characteristics that describe the physical attributes of the living quarters occupied by the household, such as number of rooms, number of bedrooms, period of construction, dwelling condition, condominium status and value (owner estimated).


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Concept video: Housing and dwelling characteristics - Transcription

(The Statistics Canada symbol and "Canada" wordmark appear on screen with the title: "Concept video: Housing and dwelling characteristics".)

Welcome to the “Housing and dwelling characteristics” concept video. This video is designed to offer insight into Census of Population data collection activities, housing variables and key housing indicators.

In this video, we will learn about housing variables. These fit into two groups:

  • Household characteristics and
  • Dwelling characteristics.

(Images of a group of people in a dwelling to represent household characteristics and of a dwelling to represent dwelling characteristics appear on the screen.)

We will cover the importance of these variables and their use in analysis and dissemination.

The 2021 Census of Population collects information on housing for all private households in Canada.

A private household refers to a person or group of persons who occupy the same private dwelling and do not have a usual place of residence elsewhere in Canada or abroad.

A private dwelling refers to a separate set of living quarters with a private entrance. Examples of private dwellings are single-family homes, condominiums and apartments.

Now let’s take a look at household characteristics and their variables.

Household characteristics refer to characteristics of the person or group of persons occupying the private dwelling.

Household characteristics collected by the Census of Population that are commonly used in housing analysis include household maintainer, tenure, total income of household, household size and household type.

The first variable we will look at is household maintainer.

A household maintainer refers to a household member who pays, partly or entirely, the shelter costs for the household.

There can be multiple household maintainers in a household.

The primary household maintainer is the first person listed on the questionnaire who is a household maintainer.

(An image of Step B of the 2021 Census questionnaire appears on the screen.)

This order does not necessarily correspond to the proportion of household payments made by this person or how much influence this person has on household decisions.

Characteristics of the primary household maintainer can be used to assign person-level characteristics to housing statistics. This method enables the production of indicators like the homeownership rates for different age groups, such as millennials and baby boomers.

The next variable is tenure.

This is the first question in Step E of the census questionnaire, and one of the most important variables used when interpreting housing statistics.

(Images of question E1 in Step E of the 2021 Census long form 2A-L questionnaire appears on the screen.)

Tenure refers to whether the household owns or rents its private dwelling and is used to derive the homeownership rate. Tenure is also often used to categorize different groups of households in housing analyses.

For historical and statutory reasons, shelter occupancy on Indian reserves or settlements does not lend itself to the usual classification into standard tenure categories.

(An image of questions E1a and E1b in Step E of the 2021 Census long form 2A-R questionnaire appears on the screen.)

Therefore, a special category—dwelling provided by the local government, First Nation or Indian band—has been created for census purposes.

Respondents using the 2A-R long-form questionnaire have this additional response option for tenure.

(An image of 2021 Census long form 2A-R questionnaire appears on the screen.)

This questionnaire is similar to the regular long-form questionnaire but is used in remote, northern and Indigenous communities only.

In addition to the housing characteristics we just reviewed, there are other important terms to understand, which aren’t used solely in housing.

Total income of the household refers to the sum of the income of all household members aged 15 years and over, before income taxes and deductions, during a specified reference period.

Household size refers to the number of persons in a private household.

Household type describes the relationship between household members and family status.

We use these variables in dissemination products such as data tables and the Focus on Geography Series. These variables will be examined further in the “Key housing indicators” video.

The next group of housing variables is dwelling characteristics.

Dwelling characteristics refer to the physical attributes of the living quarters occupied by the household.

The Census of Population collects the following information:

  • Condominium status
  • Number of rooms
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Period of construction
  • Dwelling condition
  • Value (owner estimated) of dwelling and
  • Structural type of dwelling.

Dwelling characteristics, except the value of the dwelling, were collected for occupied private dwellings.

Let’s examine each of these variables and their purpose in analysis.

We start with condominium status.

Condominium status refers to whether the private dwelling is part of a condominium development. A condominium is a residential complex in which dwellings are owned individually while land and common elements are held in joint ownership with others.

Owner-occupied condominium households are asked for their monthly condo fees. That fee is used in the calculation of the household’s monthly shelter costs.

The next two variables are often grouped together.

Rooms refer to enclosed areas within a private dwelling that are finished and suitable for year-round living. The number of rooms in a private dwelling includes kitchens, bedrooms and finished rooms in the attic or basement. The number of rooms in a private dwelling excludes bathrooms, halls, vestibules and rooms used solely for business purposes.

Bedrooms refer to rooms in a private dwelling that were designed mainly for sleeping purposes, even if they are now used for other purposes, such as guest rooms and television rooms. Also included are rooms used as bedrooms now, even if they were not originally built as bedrooms, such as bedrooms in a finished basement.

In this example, there are seven rooms and three bedrooms.

(Floor plans of the first and second floor of a dwelling unit appear on the screen. The floor plans indicate that there is a lounge, a kitchen, a TV room and a bathroom on the first floor and three bedrooms, a TV room and a bathroom on the second floor.)

Rooms and bedrooms are used to determine whether a dwelling has suitable living accommodations for the household, according to the National Occupancy Standard.

At this point in the census questionnaire, we have gathered information on tenure, condominium status, and the number of rooms and bedrooms.

We will now determine when the dwelling was built.

(An image of question E4 of the 2021 Census long form questionnaire appears on the screen.)

The period of construction refers to the period in time during which the building or dwelling was originally constructed. This is the period in which the building was completed, not the time of any later remodelling, additions or conversions.

This dwelling characteristic can be used to determine the average age of dwellings within a geographic region.

Our knowledge of the dwelling grows as each question is answered by the respondent. Next, we ask about the dwelling’s current condition.

The dwelling’s condition refers to whether the dwelling is in need of repairs. This does not include desirable remodelling or additions. Respondents may choose one of the following three options:

  1. One, no, only regular maintenance is needed
  2. Two, yes, minor repairs are needed
  3. Three, yes, major repairs are needed

(Three bullet points appear on the screen:

  • Regular maintenance needed (painting, furnace cleaning, etc.)

  • Minor repairs needed (missing or loose floor tiles, bricks or shingles; defective steps, railing or siding, etc.)

  • Major repairs needed (defective plumbing or electrical wiring; structural repairs to walls, floors or ceilings, etc.)

Dwelling condition will be revisited in the video on key housing indicators as we analyze housing adequacy.

The next dwelling characteristic is often covered in the news and is always top of mind when discussing housing. We ask respondents what their dwelling is worth.

The value (owner estimated) refers to the dollar amount expected by the owner if the asset were to be sold.

In the context of a dwelling, it refers to the value of the entire dwelling, including the value of the land it is on and the value of all other structures, such as a garage, that are on the property.

The value of the dwelling, which is available only for owner-occupied dwellings, can be used for various comparative purposes. For example, we can compare the average value of dwellings in one region with that in another.

(A map of Canada appears with an image of a house being displayed in different regions. The size of the house varies between regions to indicate different dwelling values in different regions.)

In addition, we can examine changes in the value of dwellings in one region over different census cycles.

(A map of Canada appears with an image of a house being displayed in different regions. The size of the house is shown to be increasing to indicate increasing dwelling values in the regions over a period of years.)

Lastly, let’s review the structural type of dwelling.

The structural type of dwelling refers to the structural characteristics and dwelling configuration, that is, whether the dwelling is a single-detached house, an apartment in a high-rise building, a row house, a mobile home, etc.

The structural type is used in dissemination products such as the Census Program Data Viewer, data tables and the Census Profile.

(The words, "Thank you for watching the “Housing and dwelling characteristics” video", appear on screen.)

This concludes the “Housing and dwelling characteristics” video. Thank you for watching.

(The census logo appears with a link, which is also available to view here: Census of population.)

For more detailed information regarding concepts, variables, methodology, historical comparability and other elements, please refer to the Statistics Canada census web pages.

(The "Canada" wordmark appears. ISBN: 978-0-660-45116-9)

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