Housing

collage-housingWhy is this important?

Safe and affordable housing is key to the health and wellbeing of Toronto residents. Households must spend 30% or less of their income on housing for it to be considered affordable. Expenditure of 50% or more greatly increases the risk of homelessness.[1]

 

What are the trends?

The City is not living up to its commitment to build 1,000 new units of affordable housing annually between 2010 and 2020. After progress in 2011 and 2012, fewer than 700 new units (rental and affordable ownership) were opened in 2013 and 2014. There are still close to 80,000 Toronto households on the wait list for social housing, and in 2014, family use of the city’s shelters increased by 7.9%. 2014 also saw an unusually high number of deaths in shelters. Meanwhile, Toronto housing purchase prices have nearly tripled since the 1970s; the average price remains over half a million dollars.

 

 

Some Key Trends
Data refer to the city of Toronto unless otherwise noted
2012 2013 2014
1.    Number of households on the active waiting list for social housing (Q4) 72,696 77,109 78,248[2]
2.    Number of households housed from the waiting list 3,890 3,698[3] 3,118[4]
3.    Emergency shelter use by single people (average number of individuals per night) 2,917 2,975 3,038[5]
4.    Emergency shelter use by families (average number of individuals per night) 928 947 1,022[6]
5.    Average market rents (2-bedroom apartment) (October of the year) $1,194[7] $1,225 $1,264[8]

 

What’s new?

A decade-long housing boom brought considerable economic benefits to the GTA, but masks structural problems that will take a regional policy approach to tackle. The GTHA Growth Plan failed to strategically direct intensification to areas where it would have the most benefit, a new study concludes. Three-bedroom condos meant to keep people in the core once they started families are too expensive and too small for them. There are some bright spots on the housing horizon, however. Toronto’s largest social housing provider has a 10-year plan for investment and revitalization, we’ve opened Canada’s first transitional housing for LGBTQ* youth, and a zoning change will allow Toronto’s “apartment neighbourhoods” to transform into healthy, vibrant, and more equitable communities.

 

How much does it cost to call Toronto home?

 

housing-firstchartAverage Toronto Housing Purchase Price by Year, in 2014 Dollars[9]

Toronto housing purchase prices have nearly tripled since the 1970s:

  • A Toronto Real Estate Board survey of Toronto housing prices has found that a home in 2014 cost almost three times as much as it did in 1971 (in constant 2014 dollars).
  • In the 43 years between 1971 and 2014, prices rose an average of 3% each year (today they are triple what they were in the 1970s). After a drop in the first half of the 90s, prices have been rising since 1997 (other than a recession-related anomaly in 2008).[10]

 

Home sales in Toronto remain below 2011 levels as the average price remains over half a million dollars:

  • In December 2014, the average price for a home in Toronto was $574,539, up 6% from $541,771 in 2013 (itself an increase of 9.6% from December 2012).
  • Total sales numbered 35,054, compared to 33,143 in 2013, 33,414 in 2012, and 36,771 in 2011.[11]
  • In 2013, housing sales in the Toronto Region accounted for 19.4% of the national total (457,761) and 44.8% of the provincial total (198,675).[12]

 

What are the housing trends in relation to the growing gap between rich and poor?

 

Toronto is the hottest real estate market in the world—for the ultra-rich:

  • In its annual Luxury Definedreport, Christies’ International Real Estate (owned by auction house Christie’s) analyses trends shaping the luxury residential real estate market globally.
  • Toronto was ranked “hottest” amongst global cities for its “Luxury Temperature.”
    • The rating evaluates both growth and demand, and determines which was the hottest luxury housing market in a particular year (taking into account annual sales growth, time on market, and other independent city rankings).
    • 2014 marked a return to normalcy for most of the world’s top property markets. Toronto was the only Global Economic Hub city to see a faster year-on-year pace, with a 37% increase in 2014 in luxury home sales compared to 4% the previous year.[13]
    • According to the report, the low supply of homes in Toronto has pushed prices up to $1M to $2M for average homes and up to $2M to $4M for larger homes or those located in the most desirable parts of the city. Even luxury condo prices were pushed above $1M in 2014.[14]
    • A weak Canadian dollar also contributed to Toronto topping growth in demand among more than 80 global markets.
    • Toronto is believed to have become attractive to wealthy foreign buyers who not only want to increase their real estate holdings and park their money, but also relocate their families here because of quality universities and Canada’s stable government.[15]
  • Toronto’s sales pace was also the fastest. Luxury homes stay on the market for only a month on average.
  • globalChristie’s also releases a Luxury Index, which evaluates overall prices and the relative “luxuriousness” of a market (i.e., top sales prices, high average prices per square foot, and number of luxury sales). Toronto ranked 10th on this 2015 index (London was first and New York second).[16]

 

 housing-avgdaysonmarket

Average Days on the Market for $1M+ Homes, December 2014[17]

 

While the wealthiest find homes at a rapid pace, many cannot afford homes at all:

  • globalIn its 11th annual International Housing Affordability Survey, Demographia measures the affordability of 378 metropolitan markets in nine countries by measuring the “median multiple,” a measure of median house prices to median household incomes. A median multiple of 3.0 or less is considered affordable.
  • Canada’s “major market” (which includes only cities with a population over one million) in 2014 was “seriously unaffordable,” with a median multiple of 4.3. In the major market ranks, Toronto is the 13th least affordable of 86 global cities while Vancouver remains second least affordable and Hong Kong least.
  • Canada’s market overall had a less severe but still unaffordable median multiple of 3.9.
  • In 2013, Toronto ranked as “severely” unaffordable, with its worst-ever median multiple of 6.2. In 2014, it climbed to 6.5—a 65% increase over the 11 years of the Demographia report—with a median house price of $482,900 and a median household income of $73,900.
    • Toronto is Canada’s third least affordable market. The least affordable was Vancouver with a median multiple of 10.6, far above the second-least affordable market, Victoria, with a median multiple of 6.9. Canada’s most affordable housing market was Moncton, with a median multiple of 2.2.
  • Toronto is the 35th least affordable city worldwide. Vancouver remains second-least affordable after least affordable Hong Kong, which has a staggering median multiplier of 17.[18]

global

gap-HousingAffordabilityTrend-

 

Housing Affordability Trend in Canada’s Major Markets, 2004-2014[19]

 

 

Meanwhile the affordability of home ownership continues to worsen. RBC’s affordability index measures the percentage of median pre-tax household income needed to cover the cost of home ownership (including mortgage, utilities, and property taxes) at current market prices:

  • Toronto remains the second-most unaffordable housing market in Canada:[20]
    • The affordability for a two-story home in Q2 2015 was 67.5%, an increase of 0.7 percentage points from Q1 2015, 8 percentage points from Q2 2014, and 4.9 percentage points over 2013’s overall rate of 62.6%.
    • The affordability of a bungalow increased 2.1 percentage points to 59.4%, and that of condos remained the same at 33.8%.[21]
  • Compared to Vancouver, however, Toronto is still much more affordable:
    • The affordability of a two-story home in Vancouver rose 5.2 percentage points from Q2 2014 to Q2 2015 to an incredible 90.6% of a household’s income. Affordability of single detached bungalows increased by 6.5 percentage points, to 88.6% (versus Toronto’s 59.4%, Montréal’s 36.0%, Ottawa’s 35.4%, Calgary’s 32.4% and Edmonton’s 32.5%).
  • Condos are the most affordable option in Vancouver. Their affordability increased 0.5 percentage points from Q1 2015 and 0.9 percentage points from Q2 2015 to 40.1%.[22]

 

housing-torontoownershipcosts

Ownership Costs as a Percentage of Household Income, Toronto, 1986-2015[23]

housing-vanownershipcosts

Ownership Costs as a Percentage of Household Income, Vancouver, 1986-2015[24]

 

Toronto is the fifth most expensive of 30 communities across Canada in which to buy a home:

  • Toronto-based website RentSeeker, which specializes in services for the apartment industry, has produced an infographic showing what kind of income a person needs to afford an average-priced home across Canada.
  • An annual income of $126,530 is needed to afford the average home in Toronto, which in 2014 cost $630,858. Three Vancouver communities and a GTA city top Toronto’s prices:
    • In West Vancouver it takes an annual household income of $320,932 to afford the average home, with a price tag of $1,757,700. In Vancouver, the average price is $810,600 and required income $152,145. And in North Vancouver, $133,478 is needed to afford the average home at a price of $704,700.
    • Vaughan is the 4th most expensive community, with an average home price of $717,414 and an annual household income of $140,804 needed to afford it.
  • Least expensive is Fredericton, where the cost of the average home is $156,000.
  • British Columbia unsurprisingly has the highest average home price at $562,000, followed by Ontario at $446,000, and Alberta at $398,000.
  • Quebec has the least expensive average home price ($268,000).[25]

housing-salaryneeded

 

 

Salary Needed to Buy a Home in Cities Across Canada, 2014[26]

 

While a decade-long housing boom brought considerable economic benefits to the GTA, it masks structural problems that will take a regional policy approach to tackle:

  • As much as a quarter of Toronto’s job creation over the past 10 years has resulted from the direct and indirect effects of healthy housing activity and prices. But the GTA faces serious and growing structural challenges, says a TD Economics report, like deteriorating affordability, lack of housing choice, and a strained transportation system.
  • Housing affordability, traditionally an issue for low-income residents in the rental market, has begun to affect even higher-income residents in the real estate market.[27]

 

 

GTA Average Home Prices, 1990-2014[28]

  • While home ownership rates have soared (across all age cohorts) due to favourable mortgage rates, an estimated 16% of GTA households have debt service payments in excess of 30% of their income. And an increase to interest rates of just 2 percentage points would push that proportion of the population to 20%.

 

 housing-shareofhouseholds

Share of Households with Debt Service Payments in Excess of 30% of Income[29]

 

  • Developers continue to favour ever-shrinking condos, and the lack of affordable townhouses or detached homes is preventing more young people and young families from eventually moving into larger properties, and pushing more people into the rental market.
    • For the bottom 40% of GTA earners, nearly half of their household income is spent on rent,[30] and their incomes and rental costs are increasingly diverging.[31]

projecting

GTA Rental Supply:[32]

Rent Growing Faster than Income for Low-Income Earners:[33]

 

  • Transit might be compounding the problem. A better transit system and greater transit equity could help, for example, to direct residents to where costs might be cheaper.[34]
    • Our inadequate regional transit system is contributing to growing congestion that, by some estimates, could cost the Region $15B in lost productivity by 2031 if nothing is done in the meantime.
      • During the peak morning rush hour more than two million automobile trips are made. In a car the average morning commute is about 20 minutes; on public transit it’s between 50 minutes and an hour.[35]
    • The solution, TD says, is not building along existing corridors but building more transit corridors.[36]

 

A heated housing market is not exclusive to the city of Toronto and its downtown. The outer suburbs has seen substantial price increases:

  • A spring survey of homes in the GTA performed by Toronto’s Realosophy Realty Inc. for the Globe and Mail found that house prices in the GTA increased 8% overall in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the first quarter of 2014, while days on market generally decreased. For example,
    • In the Centennial neighbourhood, the average price increased by 26% (from $275,962 to $347,593) and days on market dropped to 13 from 18.
    • In Southwest Ajax, the average price was up 23% (from $300,082 to $370,417) and days on market dropped to 18 from 26.
    • In Dunbarton, the average price increased 38% (from $608,167 to $838,375), although the days-on-market trend differed (increasing rather than decreasing, to 30 from 18).
  • The Globe reports that, according to US-based statistical rating organization Fitch Ratings, Canada’s real estate market is overvalued by about 20% based on long-term economic fundamentals (such as income growth, population growth, unemployment rate, and housing starts).
    • According to Fitch, risk factors looming large include the trend towards lower participation in the labour force (as well as an increase in part-time work), an “overhang” in the high-rise condo inventory, and the record 163.6% debt-to-income ratio reached by Canadians in the fourth quarter of 2014.[37]

 

 

Are people saving money by choosing the suburbs?

 

The “sticker price” of a house in the suburbs can be significantly less than one downtown, but the total costs may not be that different once commuting costs are factored in:

  • In 2012 and 2014 surveys by the Royal Bank of Canada and the Pembina Institute, 82% of respondents cited price as the primary determinant of where they lived. Many homeowners found themselves pushed out of the downtown core to the car-dependent suburbs where homes are cheaper.
  • But a report from RBC and Pembina considers what happens when location-related costs—car ownership, fuel, and the costs associate with commuting such as time wasted in congestion and lost wages—are added to the price of a home.[38]
  • The analysis used four different Toronto-area buyers as case studies, finding five housing options for each, all in different locations and with different commuting and driving considerations.
    • A family of five wanting a large home and a big yard closer to Toronto for under $900,000, for example, could make their dream a reality by sacrificing one vehicle. The researchers estimate that getting rid of one vehicle could save the family a minimum of $200,000 over the lifetime of a mortgage.[39]

 

The city of Toronto far outstripped the other GTA regions in condo sales:

  • 70% of condo sales in the GTA in the first quarter of 2015 were in Toronto.
    • Peel accounts for another 14% of sales and York 11% (the remaining 5% are in Durham and Halton).
  • Toronto’s condo sales increased by 11.1% in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period a year before, with 4,940 units sold (versus 4,447 the year previous).
  • The average price was also up (3.6%), reaching $363,973 in Q1 2015 compared to $351,213 in Q1 2014.[40]

 

 

How well can the average family afford to live in Toronto?

Three-bedroom condos meant to keep people in the core once they started having children are too expensive and too small for families:

  • The City’s mandate that a certain number of three-bedroom condos be included in towers under construction was meant to create new downtown dwellings for families. But high prices and cramped quarters mean these units are instead being bought by investors who rent them out, often creating “student rooming houses in the sky.”
  • As of January 2015, only 29 of the 93 condo projects under construction in the city included three-bedroom options, and only 45 three-bedroom units were listed on realtor.ca—and they ranged in price from $547,500 to $7.9M (for a penthouse).
    • The least expensive three-bedroom unit advertised was only 742 ft2, under the average condo size of 797 ft2 and well below the 1,200 ft2 common for two-bedroom units among the older stock of condos from the 1980s.[41]
  • The percentage of condos that are rented out in the GTA is increasing year by year. In 2014 it reached almost 29%, up from about 26% a year earlier.[42]
    • Toronto had the highest percentage (31.3%) of rented condos in the GTA in October 2014, followed by Peel (25.6%), York (23.8%), Durham (15.5%), and Halton (13.7%).[43]

Percentage of GTA Condominiums Rented Out, 2004-2014[44]

 

Strong demand for condominium living outstripped increased supply, driving the vacancy rate for rented condominium apartments in the GTA below that of purpose-built rental accommodations:

  • The vacancy rate for rented condominium apartments in the GTA decreased from 1.7% in fall 2013 to 1.3% in October 2014.
  • The vacancy rate in Toronto in Q1 2015 was 1.3% (down 0.4 percentage points from Q1 2014).[45]
  • Although the supply of rented condominium apartments increased by more than 17.6% (13,792 units) between Fall 2013 and October 2014, all new units added to the market were rented out in 2014.[46]
  • Rental condo units tend to have higher rents than purpose-built rental accommodations, but the low supply of new purpose-built rental units and condos’ newer finishes, better amenities, and central locations have put condo rentals in high demand.[47]
  • The average rent for condominium rental apartments (of all sizes) in Toronto was up 0.92% in October 2014 over October 2013, at $1,758.[48]
  • Although condos are the only affordable option to many home buyers, it is still much cheaper to rent than buy or mortgage a condo, keeping many young professionals and downsizing baby boomers willing to pay increasingly higher rents for shrinking spaces.[49]

 

Toronto is the most expensive place to rent in Canada, and has the fourth-lowest vacancy rates.

  • Toronto-based website RentSeeker, which specializes in services for the apartment industry, used data from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation to produce its 2015 rental market infographic showing the average costs of renting and the percentage of apartments vacant in major Canadian cities.
  • With an average two-bedroom renting for $1,596 and an average rent (across bachelor, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments) of $1,510.25, central Toronto (the former City of Toronto) [50] is the most expensive place to rent, followed by Vancouver, where the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,571 and the average across apartment sizes is $1,403.25.
    • Widening the scope from central Toronto to the GTA sees the average two-bedroom fall to $1,238 and the overall average to $1,160.25. Comparatively, neighbouring Hamiltonians pay $884 and $804.75 respectively.
  • Toronto’s vacancy rates sit at 1.3% for a bachelor, 1.6% for a one-bedroom, 1.4% for a two-bedroom and 0.6% for a three-bedroom, which are all slightly lower than GTA figured which are 1.6%, 1.7%, 1.5% and 1.4%, respectively.[51]

 

The vacancy rate for one-bedroom rental apartments in the Toronto Region increased by half a percentage point in 2014, reaching 2.2%:

  • Although an improvement over the previous two years (the vacancy rate was 1.7% in both 2013 and 2012),[52] vacancy rates that fall consistently below 3% are generally linked to increases in rental rates.[53]
  • The vacancy rate for two-bedroom apartments increased very slightly to 1.6% (up from 1.5% in 2013), but for three bedrooms it fell from 2% to 1.7%).[54]

 

Renting in Toronto is unaffordable for many households and the trends indicate the problem is getting worse over time:

  • Almost half of Toronto households rent, and 43.5% of renter households spend more than 30% of pre-tax income on rent.[55]
  • The average monthly rent (across all apartment sizes) in Toronto was $1,166 in October 2014, an increase of 2.82% over October 2013.
  • Halton Region continues to have the highest average rental rates in the Toronto Region, at $1,189 in October 2014 (an increase of 4.12%). Rents are lowest in Durham Region at an average of $1,000 (an increase of 2.04%).[56]
    • The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Region in 2014 took up 42.7% of the average wages of a full-time employed youth (aged 15-24), an increase of 9.2% (from 39.1%) since 2009.[57]
    • The average market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the city of Toronto in October 2014 was $1,264 (up from $1,225 in 2013 and $1,194 in 2012).[58]
  • To be considered affordable, housing must not exceed 30% of gross household income (a threshold defined by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation).[59]
  • 41% less purpose-built rental housing was completed by mid-2014 than a year earlier.
    • 1,104 purpose-built rental units were completed in the GTA in the 12 months prior to June 30, 2014 (the cut-off for a CMHC survey), 41.7% below the 1,896 units recorded in the same period a year earlier.[60]

 

Rent for seniors’ housing has decreased slightly, but remains close to $5,000 a month:

  • The average monthly rent for a senior’s heavy care space (in which the resident receives 1.5 hours or more of care per day) is $4,744 in 2015, a decrease of 3.6% over 2014, when it was $4,923.[61]

 

 

What about the people without housing options?

 

The number of homeless remained “stable” in Toronto from 2009 to 2013:

  • The City’s 2013 Street Needs Assessment estimates that 5,253 people were homeless in Toronto on the night of April 17, 2013.
  • The figure was 1.6% higher than the estimate for 2009 (5,169), and any rise in homelessness is undesirable. Nonetheless, the number was below the projected population growth rate (4% to 5%) for the period, leading the City to assess 2013’s homeless number as “stable” with that of 2009.
  • The needs assessment counts Toronto’s homeless population, both those with shelter and the street population. An estimated 9% of the homeless population (approximately 447 individuals) were estimated to be sleeping outdoors on the night of the count—24% higher than in 2009, but 39% below 2006 levels.[62]

 

Although the number of single people accessing emergency shelters remained relatively stable in 2014, family use increased by 7.9%, and shelter use in general has been rising in recent years:

  • An average of 3,038 single people occupied emergency shelter beds in Toronto every night in 2014, representing a small increase from 2,975 in 2013. In general, their shelter use has been increasing (2,917 singles used Toronto’s shelters in 2012, and 2,879 in 2011).
  • An average of 1,022 members of families used shelters every night in 2014, up from 947 the previous year (and from 928 in 2012 and 856 in 2011).[63]
  • Of course, shelter numbers underrepresent homelessness because they do not account for those who do not access the shelter system (e.g., those who “couch surf,” “sleep rough,” etc.).

housing-avgnightlycensus

Average Nightly Occupancy by Month, Toronto Permanent Emergency Shelters, 2013-2015[64]

 

 

Meanwhile, the numbers of shelters and shelter beds in Toronto have been dropping:

  • The number of emergency homeless shelters dropped by 9% between March 2009 and March 2013, when there were 41 shelters. During the same time period, shelters decreased by 12% across the province, and 21% nationally.[65]
    • The number of shelter beds decreased by 4.7% over the same time period (versus 0.6% provincially and 7.6% nationally), although they increased between 2012 and 2013, from 3,119 beds to 3,217.[66]
  • The number of beds for youth remained stable between 2010 and 2013. In 2013 there were 10 youth shelters with 398 beds. The number of beds for women declined from 551 in 2011 to 498 in 2012. As of 2013, there were still 498 women’s beds, in 10 women’s shelters.[67]

 

The number of deaths in shelters almost doubled in 2014:

  • 30 people died in Toronto’s shelters in 2014—an increase of 87.5% over 2013, and the highest number of deaths in a single year between 2007 and 2014 (the second-highest was 26 in 2008).
    • Of those who died, 26 were male and 4 were female. Their average age was 57.3 years.
  • 172 people died in shelters between 2007 and 2014, representing a yearly average of 21 deaths.
  • 2014 ends a long trend of downward progression from 21 deaths in 2010 and 2011 to 18 in 2012 and 16 in 2013.[68]
  • Homeless people suffer far higher rates of chronic disease and premature death than those who are housed, and they have more difficulty accessing health services.[69]

 

Although the “active” waiting list grew by only 1.5% in 2014, there are still close to 80,000 Toronto households waiting for affordable housing:

  • As of Q4 2014, there were 78,248 families and individuals on the active waiting list (eligible and waiting to move into affordable housing) for social housing in the city, 1,139 more than in 2013.[70]
  • 3,118 applicants were housed in 2014, 571 fewer than in 2013—a decrease of 15% and the lowest total in the past six years.[71]

 

The number affordable rental housing unites opened in 2014 remained low:

  • The 260 units of affordable rental housing opened in 2013 represented a drop of 77% from 2012 (and 66% from 2011), and 2014 saw no percentage increase, with another 260 units opened.
  • The City did improve, however, on units built for affordable ownership, completing 98 in 2014 compared to only 54 made available in 2013 (which was 77% fewer than in 2012).[72]

 

Five-year Total Waiting List for Social Housing, City of Toronto, 2014[73]

 

Racialized, immigrant, and newcomer youth are over-represented among the “hidden homeless” population, and many feel a sense of “shattered expectation”:

  • Language and cultural barriers, and lack of status, personal ties, and history in Canada make newcomer youth amongst the most vulnerable of homeless youth.
  • A 2009 survey of 244 homeless youth in the city found that nearly a quarter had been born outside of Canada. A 2014 report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto paints an interesting portrait of Toronto’s homeless newcomer youth:
    • More than one in three participants identified as “LGBTTIQ”, compared to one in five homeless youth in a 2013 City of Toronto study.
    • The average age at which they first experienced homelessness was 17.
    • Two-thirds cited family conflict as the main reason for their homelessness.
    • One in four (25.9%) reported having experienced some form of trauma.[74]
    • One in four are parents.
    • Over a quarter held Refugee Claimant status.
    • Many experienced a sense of “shattered expectation” after arriving in Canada — their experiences did not live up to their hopes and their settlement experiences were not positive.
    • Almost half (46.9%) reported Ontario Works as their main source of formal income, while another third (32.8%) reported income through paid employment.

 housing-homelessyouth

Homeless Youth Survey Participants’ History of Abuse, and Physical and Mental Health History[75]

  • Both newcomer youth and service provider survey participants put forward ways to prevent and reduce homelessness among newcomer youth:
    • help them obtain an “insider’s perspective” on life in Canada,
    • make peer-support networks more widely available,
    • advocate for their housing needs,
    • perform intensive case management and follow-up on their arrival in Canada, and
    • make homeless newcomer and youth a priority service population.[76]

 

What is needed to build and maintain affordable housing, and what are the key challenges?

 

The City’s Affordable Housing Office struggles to provide affordable housing as its Federal Government funding decreases:

  • Although Canada’s population has increased by almost 30% over the past 25 years, the federal government’s annual investment in housing has decreased by over 46% and their spending on low-income housing (per capita) dropped $115 (adjusted for inflation) to $60 over the same period.[77]
  • The reduction in the investment in, and overall supply of, affordable housing in Canada (including private sector rental and social housing) is the societal shift that has had the most profound impact on homelessness.
  • While government funding for social housing has declined, the private sector has increased the overall supply of housing—but not rental housing. In fact, particularly in gentrifying neighbourhoods, many existing rental properties were demolished or converted into unaffordable condominiums.
  • The decline in affordable housing, combined with stagnating or declining incomes, benefit reductions, and economic changes contribute to the creation of Canada’s homelessness problem.
  • While affordable housing is not the only solution to homelessness, an adequate supply of it is a vital component in the quest to end homelessness.[78]
  • August 2014 saw the extension of the Federal-Provincial Investment in Affordable Housing agreement to 2020. In December 2014 the Province announced the City’s funding allocation would be $197M over the six-year term.[79]

 

projectingWith over a third of its aging properties in poor condition, Toronto’s largest social housing provider has come up with a 10-year plan for investment and revitalization:

  • The city’s largest provider of social housing stock is facing some serious challenges.
    • Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) provides 61% of Toronto’s social housing stock, housing approximately 109,000 people in 59,700 homes throughout the city.[80]
    • More than three-quarters of TCHC households have total incomes of less than $20,000 per year. 25% of residents are 59 and older, and 29% of households have a member living with a disability.[81]
    • As of January 1, 2015, TCHC had an $896M capital repair backlog and needed $2.6B for capital repairs over 10 years.[82]
    • Only 64% of its properties are in good, or even fair, condition; 35% are in poor condition, and 1% are in critical condition.
    • The Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (CANCEA) predicts that by 2023, 91% of TCHC properties will be in poor or critical condition, or even closed.[83]
    • In 2014 alone, TCHC completed over 300,000 work orders in response to service requests.[84]
  • TCHC developed a revitalization program to try to fix its buildings, with approximately $5B worth of projects included. However, these projects cover only a fraction (10% to 12%) of the work that needs to be done.
  • To fund the other 90%, TCHC developed a 10-year capital financing plan with the City of Toronto involving an investment of $2.6B split between the three levels of government. TCHC and the City have managed to fund just over one third ($919M).[85]

housing-wherethemoneywillcomefrom

Where the Money Will Come From[86]

  • The City of Toronto and TCHC are now requesting $864M from both the provincial and federal governments through their Close the Housing Gap campaign.[87] projecting
  • CANCEA has weighed the socio-economic risks and rewards of TCHC’s capital investment plan and revitalization and found that failing to make the investment would create significant social, economic, environmental, and financial risks. Its report concludes that if the provincial and federal governments do not contribute, there will be significant negative consequences:
    • A $4.2B boost to the GDP will be lost, as will 62,700 employment years (roughly 2,000 jobs a year for 30 years).
    • Poorer-quality housing will cost $1.55B over 30 years, the result of an estimated 312,000 instances of illness and 1.1 million additional uses of the healthcare system.
    • Poor energy efficiency will result in an 11% rise annually in energy costs (about $240) for each TCHC home and a 10% increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
    • The “community wealth” of Toronto neighbourhoods will drop by an estimated $5.7B as the value of market-rate rentals near decaying TCHC housing declines.[88]

 

 TCHC Housing Conditions in 10 Years, Reward and Risk Scenarios[89]

 

In what ways are other cities doing better with housing issues similar to Toronto?

 

When it comes to growth, the GTHA has much to learn from Metro Vancouver. Despite its challenges, its regional planning strategy has proven more effective than the GTHA’s Growth Plan:

  • The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, released in 2006, required that 40% of all housing development occur in the form of intensification. But a Neptis Foundation study comparing the growth of the GTHA and Metro Vancouver from 2001 to 2011 concludes that the Growth Plan failed to strategically direct intensification to areas where it would have the most benefit.
  • Neptis found three important differences between Metro Vancouver and the GTHA that the Toronto Region could learn from:
    • While Metro Vancouver is intensifying, the GTHA is growing mostly through greenfield development.
      • Between 2001 and 2011, 69% of Metro Vancouver’s new residents were accommodated by intensifying existing urban areas, compared to only 14% of GTHA residents. The other 86% were housed in new suburban subdivisions developed on greenfield sites.
      • Neighbourhoods in the older established urban areas of the GTHA are experiencing a loss of population; those in Metro Vancouver are not.
      • Both regions are “running hard to stand still”—building more housing than necessary to accommodate the population. Housing stock has continued to grow faster than the population, resulting in a decrease in household size and an increase in the proportion of one-person dwellings, a trend fairly consistent across Canada.
    • Metro Vancouver is achieving transit-oriented development, while growth in the GTHA is going to areas without transit.
      • Only 18% of new residents in the GTHA settled near frequent transit routes and only 10% within 1 km of a GO station. Comparatively, 50% of new Metro Vancouver residents are located near a frequent transit route and 23% are within 0.8 km of a SkyTrain Station.
      • The report suggests that Metro Vancouver’s land use and transportation planning are more in sync while the GTHA’s are “on separate tracks”—although GTHA municipalities began planning in conformity with the Growth Plan in 2006, it was two years later before Metrolinx’s ‘The Big Move’ appeared.
    • Metro Vancouver has created a more balanced housing stock over the past 20 years, while the GTHA offers a limited range of housing choices.
      • Housing stock in the GTHA has remained surprisingly stagnant from 1991 to 2011, negatively affecting both intensification and affordability. In Metro Vancouver, the housing stock, once dominated by single detached homes, is now more balanced.[90]

housing-compositionofhousingstock

Composition of Housing Stock, GTHA and Metro Vancouver, 1991, 2001, and 2011[91]

  • The study discusses three corresponding implications for policy:
    • establishment of a hard urban boundary to manage growth (the GTHA lacks a policy such as Metro Vancouver’s Urban Containment Boundary, which provides a “hard edge” for urban sprawl);
    • better coordination of planning for land use (the Growth Plan) and transportation (The Big Move); and
    • regional growth management, including co-operation and monitoring.[92]

The “Gateway Cities” project of the Institute Without Boundaries at George Brown College compares Toronto’s housing challenges to those of New York City and Chicago:

  • The Institute evaluated quality of life indicators and data in the New York-Chicago-Toronto “Delta” and published the results in its Atlas of One Delta.
  • The Atlas notes that when it comes to housing, Toronto is experiencing rapidly increasing prices, diminishing availability, fierce competition in the rental market, and a booming, but arguably overdeveloped, condo market.
  • The average price for a home in Toronto has increased by 80% in the past decade, according to the Atlas.[93]

 

housing-housingsaleprices

Housing Sale Prices and Number of Homes Sold in 2012, GTA vs. NYC and Chicago[94]

 

 

  • globalWhile Toronto’s rental prices are nowhere near NYC’s, renters can get more space for less money in Chicago.[95]

 

housing-avgmonthlyhomerental

 Average Monthly Home Rental and Average Size for a One-Bedroom Apartment in New York, Toronto, and Chicago[96]

 

  • The one thing all three cities have in common is residents without housing options.
    • On any given night, over 65,000 people in the three cities are homeless.
  • 6.5% of the population in the city of Toronto is either living in or waiting for affordable housing. Wait lists for affordable housing are lengthy in both the city and the suburbs of the GTA, but the situation for those in the suburbs is especially precarious, with far more people waiting than there are spaces available.
    • The total wait list in the suburbs is nearing 26,000 for fewer than 20,000 (currently occupied) units. In some areas, there are almost twice as many applicants as units.
  • Emergency shelter is in even worse supply. Only 15% of the GTA’s shelter beds (770 beds) are in the suburbs, meaning vulnerable populations may be forced to seek emergency shelter downtown.
    • Shelter beds in Toronto are nearly 10 times more expensive than social housing.[97]

 

housing-torontoswaitlistToronto’s Wait Lists for Affordable Housing:[98]

housing-torontoscostforsocialhousing

Toronto’s Costs for Social Housing vs. Shelter Beds[99]

 

Where are there bright spots in Toronto’s housing landscape?

 

A zoning change will allow Toronto’s “apartment neighbourhoods” to transform into healthy, vibrant, complete, and more equitable communities:

  • After nearly two years of research, public consultation, policy development, and advocacy by the United Way, the City, and Toronto Public Health, Council approved the proposed Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) zone in June 2014. The city-wide zoning change is the first of its type for Toronto.
  • Toronto contains the second-largest concentration of high-rise buildings in North America. The RAC zoning will take effect in nearly 500 apartment properties that form dozens of apartment neighbourhoods in Toronto’s inner suburbs and across the city. Additional sites, such as those downtown, will move forward in subsequent phases.
  • Many of these apartment neighbourhoods were zoned five decades ago, when Toronto’s suburbs were planned with a strict separation of residential, commercial, and institutional land use and with amenities a short car ride away. This worked for the car-centric suburbs of old, but communities’ needs and aspirations have changed, and the lack of local services, fresh food, employment opportunities, childcare amenities, and more has affected health outcomes.
  • The new bylaws will allow a full range of uses within apartment neighbourhoods, providing residents better access to things like banks, coffee shops, clothing stores, drug stores, and places of worship—amenities that most Torontonians take for granted.
  • Approval of the RAC zone was just a first step. It is now up to landlords, residents, and communities to bring to life the potential for Toronto.[100]

 

Toronto is now home to Canada’s first LGBTQ* transitional housing program:

  • LGBTQ* youth experience higher rates of harassment and violence and are over-represented in the shelter system.
    • Data on the percentage of LGBTQ* youth among Canada’s homeless is sparse, but in a 2000 study, 25-40% identified as queer or trans.
    • A 2012 needs assessment conducted for Egale (a national charity promoting human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity) with LGBTQ* youth in Toronto found that challenges at home and at school were the most common root causes of homelessness.
    • In Toronto’s 2013 Street Needs Assessment, one in five respondents in youth shelters identified as LGBTQ*. The number may be higher, however, because stigma may encourage under-reporting.
  • A 2014 City staff report recommended that Council explore community interest in operating a standalone emergency shelter or transitional housing for homeless LGBTQ* youth.[101] In projectingMarch 2015 the City allocated $600,000 of the 2015 budget to fund 54 beds for LGBTQ* homeless you.
    • The second location has yet to be announced, but YMCA’s Sprott House will provide 25 of the beds and transitional programming specifically targeted to LGBTQ* youth—making it the first LGBTQ* shelter in Canada.

snapshot

 

YMCA’s Sprott House in the Annex is slated to be the location of Canada’s first LGBTQ* youth shelter.

 


 

Advocates say this is a good start but that more funding is necessary due to a disproportionate number of LGBTQ* youth attempting to access shelter services and a “deeply… homophobic and transphobic culture” within the shelter system.[102]

 

 

The following groups are addressing issues relating to housing through their innovative community-based programs.

 

Click on the name of the group to be directed to their profile on the Community Knowledge Centre to learn more about how.

 

Artscape – Creating shared space for non-profit and arts based orgs through urban development

Canadian Urban Institute – Building wisdom and inspiring leadership for healthy urban development

Community Living Toronto – Providing meaningful ways for those with an intellectual disability to participate in their community

Covenant House – Serving youth experiencing homelessness

The Dorothy Ley Hospice – Fostering hope and dignity for individuals living with life-limiting illness or loss

East York East Toronto Family Resources Organization – Increasing the well-being of individuals and families

Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth – Working locally and nationally to prevent, reduce, and end youth homelessness

Fred Victor – Providing accessible housing to people experiencing homelessness and poverty

The Good Neighbours’ Club – Welcoming homeless men into a safe space through a drop-in centre

Habitat for Humanity Toronto – Mobilizing volunteers to build affordable housing

Homes First – Providing affordable stable housing and support services to help people break the cycle of homelessness

Interval House – Enabling abused women and children to have access to safe shelter and responsive services

LOFT Community Services – Helping people with challenges including mental health and addiction issues

The Massey Centre for Women – Striving to achieve healthy outcomes for all young mothers and families

Neighbourhood Information Post (NIP) – Empowering marginalized and socially isolated people

Nellie’s Women’s Shelter – Operating services for women and children who have experienced and are experiencing violence, poverty and homelessness.

New Visions Toronto – Providing services for individuals with developmental and/or physical disabilities

Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre (PARC) – Working with members of the Parkdale community on issues of poverty and mental health

Regeneration Community Services – Promoting self-determination and a higher quality of life for people living with mental health issues

The Redwood – Supporting women and their children to live free from domestic abuse

Seeds of Hope Foundation – Building sustainable communities with resource centres that encourage learning, recovery, and enterprise

Sherbourne Health Centre Corporation – Providing healthcare and transformative support to those experiencing systemic barriers

SkyWorks Charitable Foundation – Advocating and participating in social change through community film making

Small Change Fund – Supporting grassroots projects that contribute to social and environmental change

Springboard – Helping people develop the skills they need to overcome barriers and achieve their full potential

St. Stephen’s Community House – Programming for newcomer and low-income residents

Street Health Community Nursing Foundation – Improving the wellbeing of homeless and under housed individuals

Toronto ACORN – Building community groups in low income areas to establish community campaigns

Unison Health Community Services – Delivering accessible and high quality health and community services

WoodGreen – Enhancing self-sufficiency, promoting well-being and reducing poverty

YWCA Toronto – Transforming the lives of women and girls through programs that promote equality

 


 

 

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