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The One Type of Housing Hard to Find in Toronto

20 August 2012

There might continue to be talk about too much stock on the Toronto housing market, but there’s one area of Toronto housing that is seeing a shortage – that’s social housing.

This comes from researchers at the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, who have just released a report (view the full version here) saying that there is a “serious affordable housing shortage” in Toronto. And in fact, while there might be a slight shortage around the entire province, Toronto is especially feeling the pinch. With high rental rates, high home prices, and stagnant job and income growth, any kind of housing is just too far out of reach for many people.

“We’re seeing some levels of recovery around the province, but for people who are living on low incomes are still struggling,” says Margaret McCutcheon, a policy researcher at ONPHA, and the author of the report.

Struggling is right. In Toronto the average price of a two-bedroom apartment is $13,788 a year. Compare that with the $14,000 that the Toronto Housing Community reported their tenants bringing in for their average yearly income in 2011, and you can see that there’s very little left to live. And certainly not enough to still cover all the basic expenses such as utilities, groceries, and clothing.

But there’s more to it than just low incomes and high rents. There are also simply fewer apartments available for rent.

Steve Pomeroy, a housing consultant from Ottawa says, “If you look at new construction over the last 15 years, less than 10 per cent has been for the rental housing market. There are fewer rental units available to people, and affordability issues become more acute.”

This, combined with a number of other factors, says Pomeroy, is contributing to the shortage of Toronto social housing.

Pomeroy says that since the recession, incomes have decreased and this has caused fewer active buyers on the market. That, combined with the strict mortgage rules that just went into effect, have put great pressure on the rental market, which in turn puts pressure on social housing.

So, what’s the solution? Michael Shapcott of the Wellesley Institute, a research centre in Toronto, says that it’s government action.

“We’re not the United States during the pre-civil war era, but we are unconsciously moving in the direction of the city that is moving away from a city of neighbourhoods and moving towards a Toronto that is divided, a Toronto that is segregated, a Toronto of the rich and the poor,” Shapcott says.

He continued on to say that, “Ultimately governments, especially the federal and provincial governments, have to realize affordable housing is not something they can download to the City of Toronto and offload to the private housing markets. We have to get governments back to the table as serious partners.”

What do you think? Will the social housing problem go on forever? And, are our governments to blame for the current problem?

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