Neighbourhood Patterns and Housing Choices of Immigrants
This paper is funded by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Where in the community immigrants choose to plant new roots and where they migrate to as they adapt to their new surroundings can greatly affect their experience in Canada. Trends in settlement location and migration appear to be changing, and so the delivery of services must change with them. This paper attempts to answer two sets of questions:
- How important is geography and neighbourhood patterns in affecting family life and human service needs among newcomers? What are the implications of ethnic concentrations? What is the desirable mix of residential, commercial and industrial development to promote social interaction in a diverse community?
- What housing choices will immigrant families make as they grow and mature in their country? Will current trends towards high persons per unit (PPU) of housing in neighbourhoods of high immigrant continue, and for how long?
[ top ]
Except for the question of ethnic concentrations, there is little literature available on the subject. Nonetheless, the paper puts forward some assertions and ideas for future research and policy implications. It is divided into six sections, corresponding to the five research questions listed above and a concluding section on policy implications and possible future research.
Physical Geography and Neighbourhood Patterns
- Neighbourhood patterns affecting human service needs and delivery
Ethnic concentrations seem to impact service delivery more at the operational and program management level, and not so much on the types of services delivered. Neighbourhoods that have large concentrations of immigrants or ethnic groups may make it easier to deliver This discussion paper is funded by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada linguistically and culturally appropriate services.. But such neighbourhoods are usually transitory; so service delivery must adapt to their changing social make up and needs.
- The economic, health and social implications of ethnic concentrations
Most Canadian scholars generally view ethnic residential concentrations in a positive light. Ethnic enclaves are “positive” because they provide resources to ethnic minorities and facilitate the integration of immigrants. Some scholars view ethnic concentrations as “negative” because immigrants’ social mobility is limited and they reduce the incentive to learn the host country’s language or to acquire work experience or education qualifications.
Ethnic concentrations may have social, economic and health implications for immigrants. Some newly arrived immigrants do settle in neighbourhoods made up of their own ethnic group. But according to Haan’s (2005) study, only a small portion of ethnic groups studied, except for Chinese and Italians, consider locating near members of the same ethnic group when buying a home. The economic implications of ethnic enclaves vary over time and among groups. Among racialized ethnic minorities, ethnic concentrations may have implications for hospital utilization rates, general health status and youth health.
- Ethnic Concentration and public services
An increasing number of immigrants are settling outside inner city neighbourhoods causing challenges for settlement service delivery. There are not enough settlement services in the suburbs to meet the growing demand among new and even older immigrant groups. While services in the suburban areas has grown, they have not kept pace with population increases.
Ethnic concentrations may allow for ethno specific services to be set up in particular ethnic neighbourhood. But immigrants may not access these services in their neighbourhood because seeking help for financial, mental health or domestic problems are considered taboo in their cultures.
Ethnic concentrations may also impact demand for certain kinds of government services because of the large number of persons on similar backgrounds living in a location. More studies however are needed to understand how ethnic neighbourhoods’ impact the kinds of services available and how they are delivered.
- Mixed land use and social interaction
There is limited research on the positive links between mixed land use, compact development and social interaction. Results are mixed and inconclusive.
Both US and Canadian literature indicate that many immigrants come from countries of high residential density, and therefore may prefer to live in more compact development. These claims have yet to be empirically tested in Canada. Future studies could look at whether immigrants prefer to live in new compact communities.
Housing Choices of Immigrants, Multi-family Households
There is little literature available on the subject, and most of what is available is from the United States. What we know is that, over time, as immigrants adopt the language, values and habits of the North American culture, they develop a preference for suburban single-detached communities. Earlier literature on this topic has assumed that the suburbanization of settled immigrants meant moving away from ethnic enclaves and moving into largely white suburban middle class areas (known as the spatial assimilation model).. This view is now challenged by a growing body of evidence that some groups of immigrants have developed new suburban ethnic enclaves.
The key factors influencing housing choices of immigrants discussed in the paper include:
- Immigration class Family-class immigrants (those with family already in Canada) and business-class immigrants (investors, entrepreneurs and the self-employed) are more likely than other immigration classes to live in owner-occupied accommodation within six months of arrival.
- Life cycle stage – Housing needs vary by what stage of life the immigrant is in. Those married and with children have a need for larger living quarters, while young adults and seniors need less space.
- Upward mobility – Once immigrants are established, and if their earnings and income approximate those of Canadian-born residents, they tend to buy larger and more expensive dwellings, usually single-family detached homes.
- Length of stay – The longer the immigrant group is in the country, the higher the rate of homeownership.
- Affordability – Immigrants, like others, will settle where they can afford it. Houses in the suburbs (e.g., Brampton & Mississauga) are generally less expensive than housing in the central core of the city (e.g., Old Toronto).
Trend of High PPU among Immigrant Households
The paper makes additional observations about the housing choices of immigrants:
- Several papers show how instrumental the ethnic realtor is in meeting the dual desire of immigrant home buyers – a suburban home in an ethnic enclave.
- Although based on a small sample, Agrawal’s (2006) study suggests that South Asians tend not to live in neighbourhoods dominated by South Asians but prefer to live in good, stable and affluent neighbourhoods, primarily in suburban areas. The study also indicates that South Asians tend to either live or desire to live in a horizontally or vertically extended family.
[ top ]
Implications/ Proposed Actions
The paper concludes that further research is needed on the questions of the housing choices of immigrants and their tendency toward higher PPUs. The research on the housing and location choice of immigrants should be longitudinal in nature and examine a host of factors, including immigrants’ race/ethnicity, length of stay in the country, geographic location, life cycle stages, as well as their level of acculturation (the process of adapting to the cultural traits and social patterns of the host country).
Read Executive Summary (93 KB, 4 pages)
[ top ]