Unless more land is made available for housing in parts of Ontario, the shortfall for grade-related housing could grow to over 200,000 units by 2051, worsening an already-existing problem, according to a report by Malone Given Parsons Ltd.
In its land supply analysis which incorporates the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), Simcoe County, the cities of Barrie and Orillia, and Waterloo Region, Malone Given Parsons was commissioned to examine whether the province has the land to meet its housing growth forecast for the next quarter century.
The report was commissioned for the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA).
The GTHA region is already in a deficit, short 77,900 housing units from 2006 to 2021, contributing to the housing challenges in Ontario.
“A lot of people think there’s a housing shortage, a lot of people wonder if there is a housing shortage. We’ve taken the forecast with what was supposed to happen versus what did happen in the last 15 years and there clearly is a housing shortage,” Matthew Cory, a principal at Malone Given Parsons, told RENX Homes.
As municipalities in Ontario finalize their official plans for 2051 and immigration continues to flow into the GTHA, policies must address this deficiency of land supply, he said. Otherwise, he said Canada is playing a “dangerous game” in its courting of immigrants.
"In a housing supply deficit"
“We are already in a housing supply deficit,” said Dave Wilkes, BILD president and CEO, in a statement about the report. “Problems bringing land online for new single-family homes, townhomes and stacked townhouses, and difficulty in adding supply within cities means we are nearly 80,000 housing units short (2006-2021) of where we should be in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).
"Looking forward to 2051, with even higher targets for high-density apartments, we can anticipate this shortfall to increase."
The GTHA's deficit of almost 78,000 housing units was created before recent provincial rollbacks on approved land to meet projected growth needs by 2051 came into play.
”The report identifies that even before the province reversed the approval of municipal official plans, the housing shortfall would increase to an estimated 97,000 grade-related housing units (including singles, semis and all forms of townhouses) plus any shortfall of high-density apartment growth by the year 2051," Wilkes said in the statement. "Following the reduction of land supply by the 2023 provincial “resetting” of official plan approvals, the housing shortfall could increase to 206,800 grade-related homes (10,400 ha) plus any shortfall in apartment growth.
"The numbers are higher when other regions in the GGH (Greater Golden Horseshoe) are included."
Projected shortage of grade-related housing
By examining designated greenfield area land supply in the study’s focus locations, Malone Given Parsons found all municipalities in the GTHA also missed their projected high-density apartment growth forecast from 2006 to 2021.
On grade-related housing, Toronto and Hamilton saw increases, while the other regions in the GTHA fell short.
Ontario’s 2020 Growth Plan demands higher intensification targets, moving away from a market-based supply of housing to an “unprecedented number of families to house themselves in high-density apartment units,” the report states. "Market-based" refers to types of housing preferred by potential buyers and/or renters.
In the City of Hamilton, and Regions of York, Peel, and Halton, the shortfall when compared to what the plan calls for would be approximately 97,000 grade-related housing units from 2021 to 2051, according to Malone Given Parsons’ analysis.
The problem could get worse for grade-related housing. The reduction of land supply resulting from provincial changes to official plan approvals could result in a deficit of approximately 206,800 grade-related housing units from 2021 to 2051, though high-density apartment units would see a surplus of approximately 326,800 units in the GTHA.
“What we’re talking about is not having enough land, not having enough housing on purpose from the planning perspective, and we’re going to very clearly have a more and more increased housing crisis and shortage of housing going forward,” Cory said.
The push for denser housing in the growth plan means apartments will drive any progress made toward the overall targets, but this poses challenges. To meet the target, Cory said 10 per cent of all existing low-density neighbourhoods must be redeveloped with multi-plex type housing by 2051, which he stated is not feasible.
Effects on immigration and possible solutions
The GTHA is a magnet for immigration to Canada, receiving 30 per cent of the country's immigrants, according to the report. Addressing the land supply deficiency for housing is key to retaining these immigrants, it states.
“Given that the GTHA accommodates over 30 per cent of Canada’s immigration each year, because immigration is the primary driver of population growth in Canada, a shortfall of housing has national implications,” said Neil Rodgers, OHBA interim CEO, in his own statement about the report. “The province has a policy statement to guide development for future growth. It commissioned extensive growth and housing requirement projections to help plan to 2051.
"This study demonstrates that by ignoring its own policies and projections, decisions made today are going to have far-reaching implications and show that we will be in a demand/supply imbalance for decades to come — continuously pushing prices up.
"If we’re to address the affordability crisis now, we need solutions that increase supply, promote transit supportive densities and housing choices on shorter timelines.”
Cory warned the shortfall of land and housing in the GTHA is a “huge crisis” and will force immigrants to settle for substandard housing, move elsewhere in Canada, or stop coming entirely. Such a scenario is “not a fair way to treat the new immigrants we need,” he said.
In its list of policy suggestions, Malone Given Parsons recommends:
- opening up missing-middle housing intensification in the low-density neighbourhoods of the yellowbelt;
- funding the infrastructure needed to develop housing in existing designated greenfield area; and
- a stable planning system, as opposed to repeated changes upon the switching of provincial governments that puts municipalities in a “bad spot” and makes it “hard to process and deliver growth when the rules are always changing,” Cory said.