Housing crisis

More sprawl won’t help the Golden Horseshoe’s housing crisis

Unless you were rushing Netflix and the fleas and never getting airborne, you sure wouldn’t have missed house prices hitting ‘forget it’ level for the majority of the locals. of the Golden Horseshoe.

Some commentators argue that the lack of land limits the ability to build new homes, thereby driving up prices, and that a massive expansion of cities into farmland, forests and wetlands is needed to bring new homes to market. financial reach of many.

They are wrong and people need to understand why.

In fact, there is no shortage of land already designated for development. Municipal plans show there are approximately 88,000 acres of land within the region’s urban limits already approved for housing — enough to meet Ontario’s provincial growth projections for decades to come.

Developers own almost all of this land, and our communities are subject to their whims of when new homes are built and at what price they are sold. Developers typically sell homes at the price the market will bear, so municipalities have little control or ability to influence housing prices.

We are part of a group that has come together to add our voice and demand sustainable and collaborative solutions from our municipal, provincial and federal governments to solve our housing affordability problem. Optimizing the use of land already approved for development and construction within our existing communities, rather than through continued outward expansion, is clearly the most effective long-term economic strategy and the only way to provide the types of housing people need and can afford.

So what could actually make housing more affordable?

A greater proportion of people moving to the region want to live within existing towns. Opinion polls tell us that it is because of their urban amenities and services. Building the “missing middle” (small-scale apartment buildings) in these cities requires changes to zoning rules that exclude multi-unit buildings in low-density neighborhoods. This would allow for the creation of pre-WWII-style communities like Toronto’s Little Italy with its mix of detached apartments, tractor-trailers and small multi-unit apartments.

Rules that discourage five- or six-story mainstreet developments should be set in parallel with the implementation of requirements for new multi-unit buildings to contain significantly more two- and three-bedroom family units. Tax rules should also be reformed to encourage investors in rental properties to get back into the construction business as they did in the 1960s and 1970s.

Finally, if we want truly affordable housing, governments will have to get back to providing the financing and loan guarantees that helped spur the highly successful co-op builds of the 70s and 80s.

Building in our existing cities will save us money, while revitalizing the local economy and community design. Sewers, water pipes, roads, and schools are all cheaper to build and maintain when more people live in a neighborhood. Frequent, nearby public transit becomes possible, and people can choose to walk to a store, restaurant, or job instead of being forced to use a car.

This approach will help fight climate change and conserve more of Canada’s best farmland, ensuring people have natural areas to enjoy, wildlife have places to live, while our streams and rivers (and the drinking water they produce) are protected from the pollution and flooding that accompanies urbanization.

Finally, creating attractive, livable and affordable cities in the Golden Horseshoe will give Ontario a competitive advantage by attracting the skilled and talented people who will make our future bright.

It is important that the Prime Minister, our mayors and our federal government develop a housing strategy focused on these key issues. If the proposed solutions aim to allow for greater expansion, expect the same with regard to housing prices and lack of accessibility.

David Crombie is President of the Friends of the Golden Horseshoe. Anne Golden is the former chair of Golden Report on the Future of the GTA.