Ottawa, ON — Ontario needs an additional 1.5 million new homes built in the next 10 years. This was one of the key findings taken from the report conducted by the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force, which was released on Feb. 8.
“Efforts to cool the housing market have only provided temporary relief to home buyers. The long-term trend is clear: house prices are increasing faster than Ontarian’s incomes,” explains Jake Lawrence, chair of the Housing Affordability Task Force, and CEO and group head of global banking and markets at Scotiabank, in a letter to Steve Clark, Ontario’s minister of municipal affairs and housing. “The time for action is now.”
The report highlighted five main areas of focus to increase the supply of market housing. This includes:
- Making changes to planning policies and zoning to allow for greater density and increase the variety of housing.
- Reducing and streamlining urban design rules to lower costs of development.
- Depoliticizing the approvals process to address NIMBYism (not-in-my-backyard) and cut red tape to speed up housing.
- Preventing abuse of the appeal process and addressing the backlog at the Ontario Land Tribunal by prioritizing cases that increase housing.
- Aligning efforts between all levels of government.
“Everyone has a role to play in addressing the housing supply crisis. As our government consults with municipalities, the public, and industry leaders and experts, we are balancing these perspectives to develop practical, forward-thinking policies that unlock and fast-track all types of housing for all types of Ontarians,” said Clark in a press release. A recent Scotiabank housing report found that Ontario is ranked last within Canada in the supply of homes per capita. Canada as a whole has the lowest amount of housing per capita of any G7 country, reports the Ont. government.
The average price for a house across Ontario was $923,000 at the end of 2021. Ten years ago, the average price was $329,000. That is a 180 per cent increase, while average incomes have grown roughly 38 per cent.
To reach the goal of 1.5 million homes in ten years, the number of houses built in the province will have to double. “As much as the task force’s recommendations will remove barriers to realizing this ambitious goal, we need to ensure we have the capacity across Ontario’s communities to deliver this new housing supply,” according to the report. “This includes the capacity of our housing infrastructure, capacity within our municipal planning teams, and boots on the ground with the skills to build new homes.”
Labour shortage woes
There is significant concern regarding the shrinking labour force as the skilled trades are instrumental in expanding the number of available homes. According to the report, Ontario’s education system priorities university over college or apprenticeships and creates a perception that careers in the skilled trades is of lesser value. Therefore, the report recommends improved funding for colleges, trade schools and apprenticeships.
Additionally, it recommends that the federal and provincial government prioritize skilled trades and adjust the immigration points system to strongly favour needed trades and expedite the immigration status for these workers and encourage the federal government to increase from 9,000 to 20,000 the number of immigrants admitted through Ontario’s program.
Celebrate good times
The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) released a statement shortly following the release of the report. In its statement, the association was pleased that the recommended changes include steps that would lessen the grip that municipalities have over developments and provide the necessary requirements to increase density in neighbourhoods that are zoned exclusively for single-family homes.
“Sweeping reforms suggested by a provincial Housing Affordability Task Force to increase density in urban and suburban areas is the type of bold and decisive action that is needed to get shovels in the ground quicker and boost the number of homes being built in Ontario,” said Richard Lyall, president of RESCON, in a press release.
According to the report, it’s estimated that 70 per cent of land zoned for housing in Toronto is restricted to single-detached or semi-detached homes. In Ottawa, it is estimated that about half of all residential land is zoned for single-detached housing.
“One result is that more growth is pushing past urban boundaries and turning farmland into housing,” per the report. “Undeveloped land inside and outside existing municipal boundaries must be part of the solution, particularly in northern and rural communities, but isn’t nearly enough on its own. Most of the solution must come from densification.” This means increasing the density of people living in urban areas.
The report also suggests using vacant commercial and industrial properties as a potential source of land for housing. One potential suggestion is retrofitting older strip malls.
“Our recommendations focus on ramping up the supply of housing. Measures are already in place to try to cool demand, but they will not fill Ontario’s housing needs. More supply is key. Building more homes will reduce the competition for our scarce supply of homes and will give Ontarians more housing choices. It will improve housing affordability across the board. Everyone wants more Ontarians to have housing,” explains the report. “Let’s get to work to build more housing in Ontario.”