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Sufficient Existing Housing Capacity

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Mar 10th, 2023
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REVIEW OF EXISTING HOUSING UNIT CAPACITY IDENTIFIED IN MUNICIPAL LAND NEEDS ASSESSMENTS PREPARED FOR UPPER- AND SINGLE-TIER MUNICIPALITIES IN THE GREATER GOLDEN HORSESHOE
Prepared for: The Alliance for a Liveable Ontario By: Kevin Eby, RPP, PLE
February 2023
Photo: Sam Beeke, Creative Commons

Executive Summary

Good policy development requires a clear understanding of the nature and scope of the problems faced, as well as the potential impacts of the various solutions proposed to resolve them. This report is intended to help inform the on-going debate about how best to resolve housing supply and affordability issues within the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). The analysis in this report relies on data presented in land needs assessments (LNAs) prepared for upper- and single-tier municipalities in the GGH as part of the process of bringing their official plans into conformity with the 2019 Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (Growth Plan).

The Province of Ontario (Province) has embarked on a series of initiatives to address housing supply and affordability issues. Included in these initiatives is the establishment of new 2031 housing targets for 29 municipalities throughout Ontario, 25 of which are in the GGH. These new housing targets are based on what appears to be an arbitrarily chosen overall target for Ontario of 1.5 million new housing units to be built by 2031. The portion of this overall target specifically allocated to the 25 GGH municipalities is 1.01 million housing units (see Appendix A).

Observations arising from the analysis in the report include:

  1. The existing capacity for new housing in Built-Up Areas (BUA), Designated Greenfield Areas (DGA), and rural areas at the time the LNAs for the upper- and single-tier municipalities in the GGH were completed exceeded 2.0 million units. This existing capacity does not include capacity associated with any new lands added to urban areas through the recently completed conformity updates to official plans, or additional lands removed from the Greenbelt to accommodate new housing.
  2. Existing capacity for new housing identified within the LNAs (2.05 million units) was more than double the cumulative total of the new housing targets specifically assigned to the 25 GGH municipalities (1.01 million). N
  3. Existing capacity for new housing is well distributed across municipalities in the GGH, with just over a third being located within DGA and rural areas, and just under two thirds being capacity for intensification within BUA.
  4. The housing crisis currently faced in Ontario relates to both supply and affordability. New housing having access to transit within the BUA has the potential to help resolve both these issues, particularly when considered in the context of the associated cost of transportation. There is no indication this can similarly be achieved through construction of more low-density dwellings in car dependent greenfield areas.
  5. The need for additional purpose-built rental units in multi-residential buildings being identified by BILD and other housing groups represents an ideal use for intensification capacity. BUA lands with access to transit represent some of the best locations for affordable housing.
  6. The aging population provides a significant market for intensification if a continuum of desirable age appropriate/supportive housing units are brought onto the marketplace.
  1. The type of housing people choose to occupy is based on a variety of factors such as affordability, life-style choices, housing type availability, tenure options, climate change mitigation requirements, transportation costs, transportation mode availability, family size, family formation timeframes, educational options, work at home opportunities, multi-generational responsibilities, expected length of retirement, life expectancy, availability of family support, and community supported planning objectives. Many of these factors that underly housing choices being made today in the GGH are significantly different than they were 20 years ago, with every indication being that such change will continue to occur well into the future.
  2. Most LNAs use past purchasing tendencies of homebuyers to determine the mix of housing required to accommodate future growth. The use of the past to predict future housing need in this rapidly changing housing environment typically results in higher than realistic forecasts for single-detached units and lower than realistic forecasts for apartments. Where the past is used to predict the future, evolving conditions affecting housing purchases (like the increasing ability for people to work from home), conditions which have only recently arisen (like the current focus on and availability of gentle intensification), and predictable conditions that may not yet exist (like planned near-term investments in future rapid transit projects) play little or no role in such forecasts despite significantly influencing future housing choice.
  3. It is completely unrealistic to assume the affordable housing crisis we face today will be solved by the private sector. That is not the business they are in. Ultimately, the affordable housing crisis will only be resolved through partnerships between the Federal government, the Province, municipalities, non-profits, co-operatives, charitable organizations and other agencies. The private sector will play a supporting role in this process, but simply providing them with more urban designated land in the vain hope that somehow this will result in more and cheaper homes being built faster is not a realistic solution. Neither are the other extreme measures identified in the report that have been proposed and/or implemented by the Province.read the whole document here

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